Traditional choral music and the twang of a banjo may seem unlikely combination, but in March the Boulder Chorale is pulling them together for a performance of The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass. KGNU’s Julia Caulfield reports that the performance will blend the traditional elements of a choral Mass, with the bluegrass band Rapidgrass for a new sound.
Dr. Vicki Burrichter, Artistic Director of the Boulder Chorale says The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass by the Minnesota composer Carol Barnett,takes all of the classical mass texts, the Kyrie and the Gloria, and brings it down to earth, in a way that bluegrass music itself does.
“In the Gloria it says “Glory be to God on high who launched the sunlight, loosed the rain, who scattered stars across the sky, who piled the mountains and roiled the plains” and then later there’s a reference to, you know, “Glory be thanks for feather, fur, for scale, and fin; for vine up twisting and blossoms fire”. So it’s really a piece about the earth, about animals, and celebrating all of that, instead of just celebrating the Divine. It looks at where is the Divine within our community, within our Earth, within all of us who live here together.”
Burrichter says that while bluegrass music is known for harmonies singing, a lot of that comes from church music.
“People growing up and singing in the old hymns in churches. So in some ways it’s a really logical connection to have a Bluegrass Mass.”
Kevin Slick, the president of the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society says the Bluegrass Mass is a new composition that has been written with the bluegrass idiom in mind, trying to combine a chorale work, with the bluegrass music.
“This piece does is it doesn’t feel very religious, in any kind of traditional sense at all. There’s no dogma in it, or anything. It’s all about…our community, and celebration of each other and of the earth…it’s very down home and dancey, and celebratory and the Rapidgrass Bluegrass Band is just fantastic…You know, there’s no happier instrument than a banjo.”
Slick says that music offers people an opportunity to connect with each other.
“Music is a bond, and it’s a way of sharing that transcends background, language, certainly political affiliations, and/or religious inclinations, and that’s a great thing…If you can connect to people by playing music and singing together, I think that’s something that is essential for the human race.”
The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass is being performed by the Boulder Chorale at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder. It’s taking place on Saturday March 18th at 7:30, and Sunday March 19th at 4:30. Tickets are available at boulderchorale.org.