Friday, April 10, 2015

Orchestra, Chorus To Perform Bernstein's Mass

The pinnacle of the Philadelphia Orchestra's requiem series, Leonard Bernstein's MASS will be both a spiritual and ecumenical experience when the Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin perform this unique work April 30-May 3.

"[Bernstein's MASS] was commissioned in the early 1970s as a tribute to America's first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, so it was indeed conceived as a requiem," says Yannick. "But what Bernstein did was to portray the struggle of the individual's faith versus the community's religion, which is something still very relevant today. It's a work that is very much of its time, of the '70s, when various musical influences were coming together and sometimes clashing. In the end the message of this piece, which I believe is what Bernstein wanted to convey, is a very ecumenical one.

That all human beings, whether or not we have our own personal beliefs, we all come together striving for a certain harmony and certain common goal. This, we can argue, is the same thing we do when we come into the concert hall to experience through the same music something that brings us more together."

Mirroring the diverse musical fabric of MASS, additional events will bring different communities together and provide context for the work. A panel discussion, Bernstein's Mass: An Interfaith Dialogue, takes place on Wednesday, April 22, at 6 PM, at the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St. The hour-long program is curated in partnership with the Dialogue Institute, a nonprofit organization based at Temple University and dedicated to ecumenical and interfaith scholarship and activism. It features moderator Ellen Frankel from the Dialogue Institute and panelists S. Zakiya Hasna Islam from Temple University, Hazzan David Tilman of Keneseth Israel, and Father Dennis Gill of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Following the conversation at 7:30 there will be a Temple University multi-choir concert, during which Temple's Concert Choir will perform excerpts from MASS.

Temple's vocal groups have a rich history of performing with The Philadelphia Orchestra, having first appeared with the ensemble in 1933. The Orchestra's PreConcert Conversations that week will be diverse and lengthened, and will feature members of the Bernstein Family, as well as community members of various faiths.

You can read more about MASS and what you will experience in the Orchestra's performances by reading two posts on our blog, here and here. To purchase tickets please visit

The Orchestra's performances of Bernstein's MASS are made possible in part by the generous support of the William Penn Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Presser Foundation.

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