Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Assumption Grotto Orchestra Masses for the Christmas Season

The Orchestra Masses for the Christmas Season are posted. If you really want an uplifting Mass to assist at during this joy-filled season, come to the Grotto for Mass. You have three opportunities to experience Holy Mass with music composed for this purpose by some of the greatest names in music history. All are conducted by Assumption Grotto's pastor, Fr. Eduard Perrone who was studying to become a conductor before hearing his call to the priesthood. Letting go of this musical ambitions to follow the Lord, God later graced him with the opportunity to restore a sense of the sacred in liturgical music....as a priest-conductor in a parish with a liturgical charism. Support this effort by coming to Mass on one of the days listed below.

From the Assumption Grotto website's "Sacred Music" page:

"A Russian Christmas"

Gretchaninoff Mass;
Tchiakowsky: Prayer from 'The Maid of Orleans';
Stravinsky: Von Himmel hoch Variations

Three Performances

Dec. 24 Midnight Mass
Dec. 31noon Mass (Feast of the Holy Family)
Jan 7 9:30 Mass (Epiphany)

Fr. Perrone explains the unique circumstances in which this "Russian Christmas" came about in his December 3, Pastor's Descant column.

While I have any number of interesting (at least to me) subjects to write about, I can scarcely contain my eagerness to share with you a word about our Christmas music. It’s a story you may find amusing, engaging, not so much because of the music itself, but because of something else. The tale is as follows.

I bought a CD a few years ago on which was a recording of a Mass (“Missa Oecumenica”) by Russian composer, Alexander Grechaninov. (If you’ve not heard of him before don’t be ashamed; he’s not all that much played even by those in the business.) When I heard it I was overwhelmed by the sheer pleasantness of it. How good for Grotto, I thought. The question was how to get the music. The hunt was on.

I first did an internet search for the work, and after a series of clicks found that there was a copy of the music manuscript in the Library of Congress. This led to writing them and learning that I would need to secure all legal procedures for copying and for performance. Ugh! Then I learned that this work had been commissioned and performed by the onetime conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Another letter sent. No luck. I wrote to the conductor of the CD performance. No answer. Then a man from New Jersey came sniffing about our parish website and noticed that in our choral repertory there was a piece by the same composer, Grechaninov. He wrote to me and asked if I’d make him a copy of it since it was out of print. This led me, presuming him to be fan of this composer’s music, to ask him as a return favor if could lead me to find a copy of this Missa Oecumenica (literally, ecumenical Mass). He said yes, but only as far as the choral parts were concerned; he had no orchestral music. I took what I could get for the moment from him. But the search went on.

Chapter Two. Having recently done a recording with a soprano who just happens to be Russian, I asked her whether she had any idea where I could get the orchestral music for this Mass. Just so happens that a friend of hers in Russia manages the library for an orchestra in Moscow. A phone call there confirmed the fact that they had this music in manuscript. What a discovery! The music for each orchestral player were then copied in Russia and sent to me (at a cheap price, by the way). Then all the notes were copied on computer.

Chapter Three. Choral music was photocopied and, even as we speak, final editing is being done on the orchestral parts to be made ready for our joint rehearsal. So, singers are a-practicing, computers are a-grinding, pastor is a-happy.

Footnote to the story. Although Grechaninov was himself Russian Orthodox, he composed music for the Catholic Church (such as this Latin-text Mass). It’s truly ‘ecumenical’ as the title suggests because it sounds rather like Russian church music (which is very uplifting) set to Latin words. Interesting, no? In any case: End of Story.