Get ready for Mass
(Sanctus of Bernstein's Mass from a 2007 performance in Riga, Latvia. YouTube)
If you've never been to Mass -- Leonard Bernstein's Mass, that is -- there's a great chance for you to get the faith. Next month, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will give a rare performance of this eclectic, challenging, fascinating and moving "theater work for singers, players and dancers" from 1971. Music director Marin Alsop is one of its few champions today. Her conviction is such that when the subject came up in Denver last June, during a discussion before members of the Music Critics Association of North America, she said she was sure she could ...
persuade skeptics that Mass is a masterpiece. I'm happy to say I don't need any persuading (I got to attend the very first performance, and the experience left an indelible mark on my oh-so-very young, impressionable and did I mention very young mind), but I know I'm in the minority among members of my profession. I also know that some concertgoers may be hesitant, too, not just because Mass has the reputation of being flawed, but because it raises big questions of faith (and politics, for that matter).
So I'm glad to see that efforts are under way to help people get more comfortable with the issues raised by this work before it arrives at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Oct. 16-18). Later this month, the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies and the BSO will hold a public forum called: "Bernstein's Mass: An Evening of Musical and Spiritual Discovery." Alsop will join the Rev. Christopher Leighton, executive director of the Institute; Rabbi Mark Loeb, recently retired from the Beth El Congregation; and Rosann Catalano, associate director of the Insitiute. The forum, which will look at the text and the context of Mass, is at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Central Presbyterian Church, 7308 York Road. Tickets are $25. Call 410-494-7161 or go register online.