MASSThis evening I caught up over a beer with my friend, Nigel Clarke, on an exciting music-and-words collaborative project that is nearing completion. There’ll be more about that on this blog when it is completed on 27 April. As always, Nigel fountained musical references and ideas. We are already looking to the future. Maybe, just maybe, our next project will be on a bigger scale. In the meantime, we have both been referring to inspirational music-and-words adventures. I, for example, have developed a particular soft spot for John Adams’s I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky. But Nigel, as always, broadened my musical knowledge by leading me to Leonard Bernstein’s 1971 MASS and it has been growing on me ever since I first heard it. Commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy (to form part of the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington), it set out as a traditional mass, but Bernstein later digressed into Latin and Hebrew and all sorts of different styles, roping in Paul Simon, among others, to write the lyrics. Controversial in its time, and not a success with the concert-going public (though it sold strongly as a recording), MASS faded unfairly from popular consciousness but it really does deserve to be better known. Sadly, it is infrequently performed professionally, has rarely been recorded and is almost impossible to find on the internet. It reminded me a little of such 1970s works as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Curious, I looked them all up on the internet and discovered that there was no coincidence. Godspell opened off Broadway on 17 May 1971. MASS premiered in Washington on 8 September 1971. And Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway on 12 October 1971. The lyrics get a little mangled in this version but I defy anybody not to tap their foot to God said, to give just one example.