Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Dress Rehearsal for the Paray Mass

Oy!!!! What a beautiful Mass is this one written by French Composer and Conductor, Paul Paray, who lived from 1886-1979 and spent part of his career right here in Detroit.
We had our dress rehearsal at Assumption Grotto last night. For the first time, the choir is separated from orchestra and is in the loft watching Fr. Perrone conduct via live video feed on two monitors. There was simply no room for us downstairs and this amazing experiment seems to have worked well. More grandeur and magnificence for Our Lord on the Resurrection Day.

This was the only Mass written by Paul Paray. From an online biography:
The Mass for the fifth centenary of the death of Joan of Arc, first performed at Rouen in May 1931, with the finest instrumentalists of the Lamouruex, Colonne and Conservatory orchestras, which prompted the enthusiasm of Florent Schmitt: "The Mass of Joan of Arc is a work of an intensity and a loftiness that lifts it straight to the heights"

Near the end of this bio we learn about the latter part of his career, which included time here in Detroit:

Soon after this, at the time of the Liberation, absorbed by intense programming at the Colonne Orchestra, by traveling about Europe conducting, notably the Vienna Philharmonic, and by the concerts that he gave as guest conductor of the world’s greatest ensembles, Paul Paray ceased his activity as a composer. He had already made a deep impression in the United States in 1939 at the head of the New York Philharmonic, and had refused the post of co-director, at Toscanini’s side, of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

In 1951, at the end of a prestigious series of concerts with the orchestras of Boston, New York, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago, he accepted to rebuild the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which, during an eleven year tenure, he was to mold into the ‘first French orchestra of the USA.’ At the same, time, he conducted numerous premiers, in close collaboration with some American composers. To those who expressed surprise that he had abandoned musical composition, he responded that although "nothing can equal the joy of creating", his work of interpreting, often enriched with a fruitful dialogue with the composers, gave him "a palpable and very real satisfaction, more direct than composition, even if it is ephemeral". It was in Detroit that Paul Paray made his most beautiful recordings, aided by the new "Living Presence" technique of Mercury Records.

Fr. Perrone studied to be a conductor before he realized his true calling in life. Now, the conductor turned priest brings this little known Mass out of isolation in the same city where he once witnessed, as a boy, Paul Paray himself conducting it at Ford Auditorium in Detroit. This time, it is in the context of Holy Mass where all glory, praise and splendor will enable us to lift our hearts on Easter Sunday. It's grandeur is worthy of worshipping God.

You can imagine being in a choir room for months on end, held captive only by a piano then at dress rehearsal experiencing the freedom of the full orchestra.

The Kyrie opens with a flowing movement that stirs the soul into seeking God's forgiveness and mercy. This is precisely the kind of active participation sacred music is intended to prompt. Active participation is, first and foremost, is an interior thing. The rest of the music does the same.

The Gloria ranged from majestic to mystical as the piece works its way through the movements. It then blooms into full splendor as we get into "quoniam to solus Sanctus" (for you alone are the Holy One)

The purity in the voices of the soloists just locks this one in.

If you are within a one tank drive of Assumption Grotto in Detroit, you will want to catch the 9:30am Easter Sunday Mass or the Noon Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday.

See a poster and get directions to Assumption Grotto here....
Also, contrary to what some believe, the people still get to sing parts of the Mass: The confiteor is sung, as is the Pater Noster, among other parts typically found in the gray booklets for the Latin Novus Ordo. These may not be used for the Mass, as opposed to other booklets written for given days in Holy Week. You can find them in the back vestibule, or watch for the ushers handing them out before Mass.