In Tune: A blend of bluegrass and Mass

2014-03-30T06:00:00Z 2014-04-01T11:38:04Z In Tune: A blend of bluegrass and MassNancy Menk Special to The Times nwitimes.com
March 30, 2014 6:00 am  • 

“Bluegrass” and “Mass”? Those two words don’t seem to have much in common (except 3 letters!). But in American composer Carol Barnett’s wonderful creation, "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" these two words and the genres of music they represent come together to form a joyous piece that has come to be loved by singers around the world.

The Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus is excited to join with the amazing bluegrass band Monroe Crossing in bringing the Bluegrass Mass to Northwest Indiana audiences on April 4. The piece blends the classical mass, modern choral sophistication, touching poetry and traditional bluegrass instrumentation into an exhilarating musical experience.

I had the opportunity to conduct the Carnegie Hall premiere of "The World Beloved" last February with a group of 300 singers along with Monroe Crossing. Nearly all of the singers had sung the piece before and wanted the chance to sing it again in the great acoustics of Carnegie Hall. Both the composer and librettist were present, and we had the chance to speak with them about the music and texts. Twenty members of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus participated in this NYC concert and all wanted to bring the piece back to Northwest Indiana for our own audiences to experience it.

Named in honor of Bill Monroe, “The Father of Bluegrass Music,” Monroe Crossing dazzles audiences with an electrifying blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals. Their airtight harmonies, razor sharp arrangements, and on-stage rapport make them audience favorites across the United States and Canada.

Our audience will have the chance to hear Monroe Crossing perform alone on the first half of the concert, and I promise you that if you think you’re not a fan of traditional bluegrass music, you will be after hearing them! The band is made up of Derek Johnson: guitar, lead and harmony vocals, Lisa Fuglie: fiddle, mandolin, lead and harmony vocals, Matt Thompson: mandolin, fiddle, baritone vocals, Mark Anderson: bass and bass vocals, and David Robinson: banjo. Based in Minnesota, the group plays an average of 125 shows a year at major venues and festivals, frequently for non-bluegrass audiences. Their paths crossed through the music of Monroe so they like to say they had a “Monroe Crossing.”

I thought it would be great to give the Southlake Children’s Choir a chance to perform with a real bluegrass band and so did their conductor, Aaron Riegle. So our concert will begin with the Children’s Choir singing three American folk tunes accompanied by Monroe Crossing.

The concert concludes with the Bluegrass Mass. Composer Carol Barnett writes: “ To bring the solemnity of the classical choir-based Mass together with the down home sparkle of Bluegrass — now there’s an assignment for a composer. My highest hope is that listeners coming from one tradition — classical or Bluegrass — and perhaps dubious about the other, might discover something new and wonderful in the combination, as I have.“ And so have we in the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus. We hope you will too!

The Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus will perform The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass & More Friday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium at Bethel Church, 10202 Broadway, Crown Point. Tickets are general admission $25 and students and children are $10. For tickets call (219) 836-0525 or visit nisorchestra.org.

Opinions are solely those of the writer's. Kirk Muspratt is the conductor of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. Muspratt's column is an occasional feature during symphony season.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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