Bernstein’s Mass

In remembrance of Leonard Bernstein‘s 95th Birthday. I don’t know what it is but Bernstein’s Angus Dei and Gloria tibi have been stuck in my head lately. Leonard Bernstein’s composition Mass was commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Now I first discovered this work through Stephen Schwartz of Godspell, Pippin and Wicked fame as he provided additional lyrics to the piece.

Mass is a theater piece based on the Tridentine Mass and diverges from that. The cast needed is huge as there is need for three choirs in it along with the Celebrant and his Acolytes, along with a Marching Band, rock band on top of a regular pit orchestra. I like it since it deals with the crisis of faith that everyone faces in live  From the simpleness of Simple Song, where everything makes sense to the utter cacophony of Agnus Dei and The Fraction: Things get Broken. It is a rather interesting composition that mixes together different types of music seamlessly.

I really don’t understand why major musicians today are not willing to take a chance on composing a new Mass. If they do get around to doing a Mass it is a Requiem, and although those are nice it would be nice to see/hear more pieces like this today, especially in the popular music scene it would be really cool to see what some of they had to say through a Mass. However this seems very unlikely.

Mass by Bernstein is one of my favorite modern compositions, as it still seems relevant today even after 40 years. I think we all need to realize that simplicity in our lives bring us closer to God. I had heard the musicals by Leonard Bernstein but it was only after i heard Mass that I got interested in the other compositions (Chichester Psalms, the Symphonies). All in all great music that needs to be heard and I guess seen.



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