Bernstein's Mass has issues (good and bad) but datedness ain't one
"There are very few spectators in any Kennedy Center audience who feel they have to stand and yell to feel like they got their money’s worth." Wait until Trump's Second Inaugural Ballwashing, in the (of course) freshly-renamed Trump Center. Tickets are already on sale, if you know the right people!
It helps to remember that Vatican II was part of the backdrop of this. For the first time in millennia, the Church was trying to update and address the concerns of congregants. The results pleased few and pissed off many. Those who wanted reform and update were pissed that it did not go far enough. And, of course, those who were against reform went into instant backlash mode.
Also in the background: The smashed hopes of the '60s. From JFK's assassination to RFK's assassination to MLK's assassination to the constant carnage of Viet Nam to the rise of Nixon, everywhere one looked, hope was dying and faith was being trampled by reality.
So if Mass seems a bit confused with an ending that doesn't seem to fit, I think it's more a reflection of what was going on at the time than any fault of its creators.
Thanks for the terrific review. I was taking a music class back then when someone walked in with the score -- IIRC (not a sure thing at my age) it was immense, with an all black cover with "Mass" written in gold gothic lettering, like a new Bible of sorts. The actual music students gathered around the piano to play through it and marvel. Being a hipster rock and roller, I thought this was decidedly uncool, and left them to their study. I've since appreciated bits of the thing over the years, and your review, as all good reviews should, makes me want to go listen to it with a more open mind, which I didn't want to do when it premiered.
I'mo have coffee with a retired professor, formerly head of the english dept at a university that is named after a certain religious entity that plays a prominent role in the show which you've so righteously reviewed. If this post were made public I'd forward it to him...just sayin'. The post pushes all the right buttons (he's an expert on poetry, theater (especially musical theater), and a clear-eyed realist – well grounded in the church, both its positive and negative aspects.
I'll be honest- I'm more of an Elmer Bernstein kind of guy. It might just be that I really dislike West Side Story so much I never gave Leonard a second chance. I loved "On the Town" I probably have a thing against " serious" musicals. Lukewarm on Rodgers and Hammerstein too.
I am Shallow.
I gotta admit - your review makes me want to give it a chance.
I love thinking about 8 year old Roy slipping into the neighbor's house to play their records. They are all looking at each other going" I thought you knew him?"
My middle-class Long Island Jewish parents had a copy of the record. They never listened to it in my presence. I assume it was sold to them as “a masterpiece from the creator of West Side Story”.
I’ve still never heard it. From every description I’ve read, I still think, “I say it’s Godspell and I say to hell with it.”
Frankly, the struggles of Christianity in the modern world is not a theme to which I’m likely to warm any time in the foreseeable future.
I never saw this but my 7th grade music teacher used to play Gloria Tibi often so I liked that.
Hey! I was your neighbor over in Cleveland. Was in Polish Catholic High School at the time and don't remember this thing at all. "Superstar" was still a thing, though. The ancient priests who only spoke Polish and Latin had been replaced by seminarians with acoustic guitars. Anyway, I was well into the 'fuck this bullshit' stage of my faith so it didn't really matter anyway.
Looked up the wiki on the Mass, and it's pretty wild. Jacki-O, Paul Simon , [ where was Dylan?] a blues band ........
I’m mad about the image not being flat enough…HMPH!😤
Never heard of this show Roy, so thanks for sharing. You seem to have quite the theater critic in you! Glad you enjoyed yourself.
I saw Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Philly Orchestra do this a few years ago and was not impressed enough by the music to care about the performance. But after reading this, I'll go back to the piece and try again. Maybe my memories of the initial reception got in the way.
I saw it in 1971 or '72 at the Mark Taper Forum in the Los Angeles Music Center. I'm not Catholic btw but I was deeply moved by it. At the end, it was so beautiful that tears were running down my face, and as I got up to go from my aisle seat, I realized that Leonard Bernstein had been sitting right across the aisle from me. I stepped up to him, still sniffling, and said, "Oh, Mr. Bernstein, that was wonderful," or something like that, and he actually threw his arms around me and hugged me. I'm so glad you liked it, Roy.
Serendipitously, my random play-stuff-I-haven't-listened-to-in-a-while list popped out "Mass" last week, and like you I was re-enthralled with it. I too was shocked by how relevant the emotional/political statements were, and I ended up listening to the whole thing.