Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass

leonard.bernsteinIt started with an e-mail I sent to Dustbury about some guy complaining that a piece of sacred music that sounds like the theme of My Little Pony; Dustbury wrote about this. He then replied to me, “I imagine he also didn’t like Leonard Bernstein’s 1971 Mass, and especially this [LISTEN].

I agreed that the original writer was unnecessarily fussy. “He probably hates the mass in the vernacular. But the church has tried to be with it.” Saint Thomas of Lehrer, e.g. [LISTEN].

But that taste of Bernstein’s Mass made me have to LISTEN to the whole Mass. (The version of the excerpted bit above starts at 55:00.) It is fascinating, strange.

Someone told me recently that the Mass was a “brilliant failure.” I’m not sure I LIKE it, exactly/entirely, and I’d be hard pressed to sit through the whole thing in one sitting, because a little of it sometimes goes a long way. But as Dustbury noted: “Even a revised ritual is still a ritual.”

Those televised Young People’s Concerts for CBS-TV, conducted by Bernstein, were huge for my appreciation of classical music, when I was growing up. And, of course, I adore West Side Story. I have a lion named Lenny, whose mane reminds me of the late conductor’s hair.

One last thing: the full Mass is part of something called the Proms. I would have had no idea what that meant except that I had read something from Melanie on that very topic, that she listens to them on BBC Radio.

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