[CUA Office of Public Affairs]           

                                                                        March 14, 2003


CUA Mounts Production of Leonard Bernstein's MASS, in Concert

Weeklong Symposia Build up To the Event


Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music celebrates the dedication of The Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center with a production of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, in concert, to be held at 7:30 p.m., April 5 and 6.


Murry Sidlin, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.

The venerated musical will be staged in the newly opened university center, located in the center of CUA’s Washington, D.C., campus at 620 Michigan Avenue, N.E.  It will be preceded by a week of symposia featuring scholars who will discuss MASS against the backdrop of the cultural and social influences of the 1960s decade that shaped Bernstein’s composition.


Murry Sidlin, who was named dean of The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music in August 2002, will conduct. Sidlin — also an arranger, teacher and arts philosopher who served as resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony before coming to CUA — has conducted MASS seven times in the United States and abroad.  "MASS is a great work of faith that encourages young people to question issues and," he says, "P.S., the music is wonderful."


CUA’s production will mark the fourth time Sidlin has conducted lead singer Douglas Webster in the lead role of the Celebrant. Webster debuted in the role at Leonard Bernstein’s 70th birthday gala at the Tanglewood Festival, in Lenox, Mass., and since that time has become known as the foremost interpreter of the role, performing it at the Vatican in 2000. The pair also will work together on upcoming productions of MASS being staged in Lithuania, Slovenia and Germany this summer. 


Soloist Douglas Webster has become the foremost interpreter of the featured role of the Celebrant in Bernstein’s MASS.

Leonard Bernstein's original 1971 theater piece was commissioned by the Kennedy family to inaugurate the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The production, which was controversial at the time, explores the spiritual and political crises of the late 1960s and reflects Bernstein's conflicts about his own Jewish faith. The score is a profusion of musical styles that include hymns, the blues, marches, Broadway-style tunes and scat.


CUA’s production of MASS is sponsored by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and will be presented as the first annual President’s Concert. The university’s highest honor, the President’s Medal, will be awarded to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday evening, April 5, to honor the center for its role in originating MASS. Accepting will be Michael Kaiser, the Kennedy Center’s president.


This work is the best of Bernstein,” Sidlin says. “It combines his eclectic musical language of American impressionism, jazz, Broadway, folk, rock, with his political and humanistic obsessions, his deep sense of faith and reverence against the backdrop of hypocrisy, viv-a-vis the lightweight justifications for the Vietnam War, the once-a-week religious edicts, and that many Americans of Color had to fight or beg to vote and to have full citizenship privileges.


“The music follows the tale of young people who see through the hypocrisy but embrace the highest ideals of faith, compassion, love and humanism, looking for leadership and assurance,” Sidlin adds.


Douglas Webster will portray the lead role in CUA’s production of Bernstein’s MASS.

Nearly 300 of CUA’s students and faculty will perform in Sidlin’s latest effort, including the CUA Symphony Orchestra and Choral Ensembles and two of the original production’s musicians and choral members who now teach at The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.  Michael Scarola and Dan Knechtges have been brought in from New York to serve as stage director and choreographer, respectively. CUA professors of religion, politics and sociology also will get involved with MASS, during symposia leading up to the show.


The interdisciplinary event, “A Simple Song: Leonard Bernstein's MASS and American Society, 1960-71,” will delve into the political and cultural influences shaping MASS. Organized by CUA Associate Professor Grayson Wagstaff, symposia will be held at CUA’s Karl F. Herzfeld Auditorium in Hannan Hall unless otherwise noted below.


Sunday, March 30, 3 p.m. — “Music, Politics and Religion”

LOCATION: Ward Recital Hall, CUA

     music, CUA

      musical performances to follow


Monday, March 31, 7:30 p.m. — “An Era of Tumult”

·         "Hope and Turmoil: A Profile of the Sixties,” Michael Foley, associate professor of politics, CUA


Tuesday, April 1, 7:30 p.m. — “Religion in a Time of Change”

·         "The Catholic Watershed, Vatican II,” the Rev. Joseph Komonchak, professor of religion and religious education, CUA


Wednesday, April 2, 7:30 p.m. — “Life, Society and the New Reality of the 1960s”


Thursday, April 3, 2 p.m.

LOCATION: The Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress (Reader’s Card Required)

·         "Bernstein's Musical Manuscripts and Research Materials in the Library of Congress Collection,” Mark Eden Horowitz, archivist for the Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress


Friday, April 4, 2 p.m.  — “Belief, Musical Style and Influences in Bernstein's Mass:

                  Musicological Approaches”

      LOCATION: Ward Hall, John Paul Hall, CUA


*  *  *

TICKETS for MASS will cost between $20 and $50. Student, senior and group rates are available. For tickets or more information contact 202-319-5416. The symposia are free and open to the public.


For additional information on MASS, visit the links below:


Ties to the Past: MASS and Catholic University


Murry Sidlin, Conductor


Douglas Webster as The Celebrant


Bernstein’s MASS


Leonard Bernstein






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Revised: 4/2/2003

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