My church tradition doesn’t include the Mass, so when Duff Warkentin, conductor of the Station Singers asked me to write a review of their performance of Carol Barnett’s The World Beloved: a Bluegrass Mass, I began to Google for information.
For you Protestants out there who “go to church” and don’t “attend Mass,” here are a few things I learned:
· The word “Mass” comes from the Latin missa, root of dismissal and generally has to do with sending of the people to be the servants of Christ,
· It’s basically a structured liturgy of worship including penitence, a plea for mercy and forgiveness, acknowledgement of Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption, praise of the Triune God and a central act of worship, the taking of communion.
We Protestants were weaned off liturgical worship a long time ago, but lately I’ve noticed that worship leaders in my church organize the services in phases very nearly equivalent to the progression of the Mass: confession, praise, scripture, etc. Although different denominations have structured Mass differently, even given it different names like Holy and Divine Liturgy, the differences in the content of worship seem to include the same parts as the traditional Mass.
And along comes The World Beloved: a Bluegrass Mass and the two performances I attended, taking notes, photos, trying to come up with erudite descriptions of what I was hearing.
· Note 1: It’s a concert I’m at, not a worship per se. Although I’m sitting in a church today and heard the same music in a theatre yesterday, the content is definitely church/Bible in origin. I paid admission, will write a review, people applaud boisterously. Hmmm.
· Note 2: Although it’s a concert I’m at, my friend Ben singing the Credo, the Grinnin’ Pickers playing the Art Thou Weary interlude move me almost to tears . . . what’s that about??
· Note 3: Agnus Dei is sung so beautifully today: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
· Note 4: I don’t know enough about music to be doing this; luckily it’s for the Saskatchewan Valley News—and perhaps the Canadian Mennonite, not the New York Times . . .
Sometimes some of us declare that a particular music genre is the only good music that exists, but I’ve noticed that the range of our preferences broadens when what we’re listening to is live—as opposed to recorded—is experienced in the company of others and is sincerely presented by musicians who love what they do. So although I’m supposed to love best of all the orchestral and choral works of dead Germans—and I do—I am also a lover of blue grass, folk, jazz, rock, hymnody, and a whole bunch of others whose names I get confused (I found out recently that “indy” is “independent”).
The Grinnin’ Pickers (bass, banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, vocals) did a set of bluegrass tunes before The World Beloved. They also threw in a few banjo jokes for free:
· Seems the banjo player in their ad hoc band realized recently that she’d left her banjo in her unlocked car. Hurrying back, worried that it might be stolen, she arrived at the car and found three more banjos had been tossed into the back seat.
· What’s the definition of perfect pitch? Hitting a garbage can with a banjo at ten paces without touching the sides.
I feel a need to include lines from the Gloria:
Glory be to God below,
For feather, fur, for scale and fin,
For vine uptwisting, blossom’s fire,
For muscle, sinew, nerve and skin
And every feature set agow.
Oh, Glory be to God below.