Leonard Bernstein's MASS

This is one of the most incredible theatre-pieces of all time, Leonard Bernstein’s MASS.
Very controversial (because people grossly misunderstand it and it’s many "points’), this is a social commentary on the state of the world a la 1960s and 1970s, set within the FRAMEWORK of a tridentine Latin Mass. Some of the songs are absolutely gorgeous.
This is one of them. It is **“A SIMPLE SONG.” ** The opening song of the piece, where the priest, not yet vested, sings a song, straight out of the Psalms, a lovely song, in praise of the Lord. In plain clothes, holding a guitar. As the song finishes, the young people bring him his robe and cincture, and vest him, and the “story” begins.
I cannot believe that, after years literally of searching, I FINALLY found this version of this song.
JOSEPH KOLINSKI, with his lovely voice, is the singer portraying the priest/celebrant, and this is from the 1981 tenth-anniversary production of MASS, shown on PBS and filmed live at the Kennedy Center ((MASS was the signature, grand opening piece written specifically FOR the original grand opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington)). This little song
is beautiful and deeply touching. I wish I could find the entire production somewhere, because in 1981, I watched it MANY times, I was so enamoured of this piece. Enjoy !!



Another song, this from the 2009 German production of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS.
A different man, with a rich and booming voice, is playing the priest/celebrant.
This song, absolutely beautiful, is called THE WORD OF THE LORD.
It is one of my 3 Favorite songs in this long, entirely-sung theatre piece.
I’d encourage you to read the song-lyrics before watching the clip.

Don’t be confused:
The SONG Itself is SUNG, in this clip, IN ENGLISH.
But a few statements by the cast, mainly quotes from the breviary or brief personal remarks of the characters, are spoken in German. The song, again, is sung in English.
So you won’t be listening to a song in a foreign language you can’t understand !!
It is a phenomenal and inspiring song that I have loved very much for over 32 years, which is profoundly moving and always brings tears to my eyes. THIS singer does a TERRIFIC job singing it as the priest. Here are the lyrics:

You can lock up the bold men.
Go, and lock up your bold men, and hold them in tow.
You can stifle all adventure, for a century or so.
Smother hope before it’s risen, – watch it wizen like a gourd.
But you CANNOT imprison the Word of the LORD.
No, you cannot imprison the Word of the LORD.

For the Word, for the Word was at the birth of the Beginning.
It made the heavens and the earth and set them spinning,
and for several million years,
it’s withstood all our “Forums” and “fine ideas.”
– It’s been rough,
It’s been rough, but it ((the word)) appears to be winning!

There are people who doubt it…
There are people who doubt it, and shout it out loud !!
There are local, vocal Yokels who we know collect a Crowd.
They can fashion a “rebuttal” that is as subtle as a sword,
but they’re never gonna scuttle The WORD of the LORD.
NO!! They’re never gonna scuttle the WORD of the LORD !

All you “Big Men of Merit,”
ALL you “Big Men of Merit” who ferret out flaws:
You rely on our compliance
with your “science” and your “Laws”.
((You)) Find the freedom to demolish
while you polish some Award,
but you ***cannot abolish *** the WORD of the LORD.
No! You cannot abolish the WORD of the LORD.

For the word, for the Word created mud, and got it going…
It filled our empty brains with Blood, and set it flowing,
and for several million years,
it’s withstood all our “Forums” and “fine ideas.”
– It’s been rough,
It’s been rough, but it ((the word)) appears to be GROWING!

All you People of Power !
ALL you People of Power, your Hour is Now!!
You may PLAN to Rule Forever,
but you never do, somehow !!

And so we wait, in silent treason,
until Reason is restored.
And we wait for the Season
of the Word of the Lord.
We await the Season of the Word of the Lord.
We wait,
We wait for the Word…of the LORD.

… enjoy the clip !!

Bernstein was a genius.i have all his recordings

Indeed he was, itullian,
indeed he was.

MASS is one of the most innovative and highly symbolic and metaphor-laden pieces of theatre I have ever seen in my life,
and it is an HONOR and Privelege for me to be able to find excerpts from it and post them here for people to be able to enjoy this very RARELY produced, and truly monumental, Theatre Piece of his.

A C.D. of Bernstein’s Mass is available form leonardbernstein.com, it seems. Cost you a few bob, though!

Thanks philial !!
I had it for years, (the 1971 Kennedy Center premier recording starring Alan Titus)
as a 2 album Vinyl Record album set, with a beautiful libretto and photo book of the original 1971 production. Heaven only knows what happened to it.
Now it’s available also on amazon.com but is prohibitively expensive.

There IS a DVD performance of a much-toned down (simpler set, no marching bands,
far less elaborate costumes, etc) but beautifully sung performance,
performed LIVE in the Pope Paul VI Hall of Audiences in Vatican City. For those who’d like it, it is available at amazon.com under the title Leonard Bernstein
MASS Live at the Vatican City.

I have this version, and it’s nice, but I really wanted a fully-done, elaborate production
with “all the trimmings” because to REALLY be done right, this monumental piece
really NEEDS all that elaborate stuff. Bernstein’s MASS is kind of a “happening,”
not a mere musical play. He couldn’t call it a PLAY, he couldn’t call it a “Musical,” and he certainly, because it isn’t, call it a LITERAL “Mass,” so instead it was
dubbed “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers.”


In the link above, another lovely scene/number from Leonard Bernstein’s MASS,
from the 2009 German Production with the priest/celebrant again sung by John Cashmore.
Here the Priest leads the children’s choir in the singing of the GLORIA TIBI (Glory to Thee).

Basically, lyrics are just:
Gloria tibi, Glorit tibi, gloria !!
Gloria Patri !!
Gloria Patri !!
Gloria Filio !
Et Spiritui Sancto !!

Laudamus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, beneficimus te!!!
Gloria Patri !! Gloria Patri !!
Gloria Filio !!
et Spiritui Sancto !! GLORIA !!

( Glory be the the Father !! And to the Son !! and to the Holy Spirit !!
We Laud thee, we Adore thee!! We Glorify Thee, We bless thee!!
Glory be to the Fathe!! Glory Be to the Son !! and to the Holy Spirit !!)

Another one of my favorite scenes, there is something so infectiously JOYOUS
about this number (melody and lyrics). enjoy !!


Above is a link to some performance group’s final rehearsal (sorry, no full production versions available online, a rotten shame) of the FINALE of Bernstein’s MASS.
This is the Lauda, Lauda. Lauda. Laude’s, It is simply beautiful.
A bit of explanation,
as I noted above, MASS is highly symbolic, filled with metaphor and is a commentary on the state of the world in the 60s and 70s, and hence of attitudes, feelings, the whole gamut of them, of people in the church and in religion in general. It was a very mutually-ANGRY time, and people used their religion as a vehicle, on ALL sides of the issues, for that anger and frustration. THAT is depicted in the last 20 minutes of MASS, with especial vigor, which shocks catholic audience members who DON’T understand the piece and think it’s an attempt to mock the holy Mass itself. It’s NOT !!

Anyway, what has happened, before this song that you are about to hear,
is that the consecration has just taken place, and the increasingly concerned, idealistic young priest realizes his congregation is behaving well, sacrilegiously. He has no idea how bad it’s going to get. He tries to call them to their senses: He holds up the chalice and paten and shouts CORPUS !! CALIX !! (BODY, CHALICE !!) and they respond defiantly (not sincerely!!) with PACEM ! PACEM !! Peace, peace. But it’s not a prayerful plea, they are making a DEMAND of God, like brats demanding extra candy from Mom.
They and their behaviors, are metaphors for all the controversies raging in the world, and in the church(es) at that time. They break into the AGNUS DEI and DONA NOBIS PACEM, but they become even more and more brazenly rude and demanding to God.
Dona Nobis Pacem !! We’re FED UP with your HEAVENLY SILENCE !! And we ONLY get action with VIOLENCE!! So GIVE US peace NOW, and we don’t mean Later !! DON’T forget YOU were ONCE our creator!! GIVE US SOMETHING, or WE’LL just start TAKING !! They are shouting these blasphemies to God. The celebrant is horrified and VERY angry. Like Moses smashing the Tablets in response to the Sinai Revellers, he raises the communion high above him and…SMASHES it to the floor. Not in disrespect for God, but in ANGER at THEM. He is devastated, and falls to the floor singing “How Easily Things Get Broken” They looked stunned, like confused brats wondering, “What the heck did ya do THAT for??” He can’t believe their insolence, and walks off into the wings. They sit in stunned silence. Finally, a lone voice of a child starts the “spiritual resurrection,” the repentance, of the congregation. “Lauda…Laude…” another joins in.
They are beginning to realize what SELFISH PURE RATS they have all been.
Then another joins in: Lauda, Laude… A woman joins in, then a man, then gradually more people, as they all gradually come to their senses, praising God in repentance. **This number builds into a glorious, thunderous crescendo of beautiful praise to God, and it’s joyful sound prompts the Priest/Celebrant to return to the sanctuary and join in the hymn of repentance and praise. ** That is what you see in THIS clip. What follows, not on this clip, aftert they all whisper to him and each other, PAX TECUM, is that He then leads them in the Almighty Father, Incline Thine Ear.

As this prayer for mercy and Grace concludes, the celebrant softly blesses them and the Audience, and announces gently, “The Mass is Ended, Go in Peace.”
Most, except those who don’t grasp the meaning of this piece and are offended by it,
most leave the theatre in tears.
This is the song of gradual repentance in this clip, the Lauda Lauda Lauda Laude’s. Enjoy, it’s beautiful.


Here is a professional recording, sans visual performance, it’s the 1971 album,
of the FULL Finale of MASS, with the repentance of the congregation and the return
of the priest/celebrant (the Lauda. Laude’s) leading directly into the final prayer the
ALMIGHTY FATHER, and the gentle Dismissal. (( see the post above for the description of the riotous apostasy and blasphemy that necessitated and led to, this song of repentance).

No filmed stage performance, you have to visualize the people standing up, one by one, the people giving each other signs of peace, forgiveness and affection as they sing, the adults embracing the little children from the children’s choirs, and all of them embracing the priest tearfully, and leading him by the hand back into their midst
as he at last returns to the sanctuary upon hearing their song of repentance and praise. I’ve seen it done and it is a scene beautiful almost beyond description. So incredibly touching. I wish the clip of the Finale from the awesome 1981 performance was on line,but sadly it isn’t.
((Turn your volume way up, as for some reason this was not recorded on youtube
…at a very high volume )).

These are the words to the final prayer:

Almighty Father, incline Thine Ear…
Bless us, and all those who have gathered here…
Thine Angel send us,
who shall defend us all.
And fill with Grace,
All who dwell in this Place.
The Mass is ended; Go in peace.

I just had to EDIT the post immediately above ---- somehow when I hit paste,
the WRONG LINK posted.

I have corrected it, the right link is there now.

Peace. Enjoy.

It’s also available @ alibris.com for less than what amazon wants.

Here’s a link:


Thanks KevinAK !!!

I just discovered this thread today after discovering Bernstein’s piece. Isn’t it a complete mockery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Catholics should be opposed to?

I watched the clips. Not impressed.

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