Marin Alsop conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in a performance of Bernstein’s MASS.
They present Leonard Bernstein’s dramatic, large-scale piece for singers, players and dancers in his centenary year.
Premiered nine years after the assassination of JF Kennedy, this seminal work captures America at a moment of crisis: the end of the golden age of 1960s optimism.
The unpopular Vietnam War and the rise of the feminist and civil rights movements, which drew attention to discrimination against African Americans and women, left many Americans questioning what their country stood for.
Originally intending to write a traditional mass, Bernstein instead decided to compose a piece of musical theatre about the Catholic religious ceremony. The word ‘mass’ also suggests a crowd of people, who can be a force for change, good or bad.
Bernstein’s MASS bridged the gap between classical and popular music, and its eclectic, theatrical style influenced later generations of composers.
The cast of MASS includes a celebrant – the Catholic priest who performs the mass – a choir, a children’s choir and a congregation of street singers. The cast are accompanied on stage by a full classical orchestra, as well as a rock band and a brass band.
As the mass progresses, the congregation develops doubts about the meaning of the ceremony. Will harmony be restored?
Southbank Centre artist in residence Marin Alsop returns to Royal Festival Hall to conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the best and brightest teenage musicians in the UK. A former pupil of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop is the only conductor to have been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and was the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms.
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