Albums

Divine Hair / Mass In F – 1971

Divine Hair / Mass In F – 1971

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Synopsis

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City, on May 9, 1971, the third anniversary of the Broadway musical Hair. Twice before, the producers and the cast of Hair had been involved in a loud and happy birthday party, both times in New York’s spacious Central Park. The events had been “happenings” for the young – particularly those committed to the Age of Aquarius. Just as easily and just as naturally the third anniversary could have been held in the Park, but Michael Butler, the world producer of Hair, felt otherwise. He wanted a service rather than a concert, and he wanted it in a specifically committed building, and yet he somehow wanted it to be large-hearted and generous with the non-committed. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine seemed to be not only large enough, but also to have the necessary combination of splendor and “give” to insure a service of the character desired. The Bishop of New York and the Cathedral’s clergy, fully conscious that some of their constituents might quit the Christian religion, decided that this sort of thing was one of the reasons for having a Cathedral and went along happily with the whole idea. Galt MacDermot’s Mass in F, sung by the choirs of St. Martin’s, Manhattan and St. Mary’s, Staten Island, furnished the music necessary for the Solemn Eucharist, and appropriate selections from Hair, sung by the New York cast and the Cathedral Choir, provided the Introit, Sequence, Offertory, and the Response to the Blessing and Dismissal. This recording conveys everything there is to be said about the vitality of the music and the spontaneous joy of all who were there. What no recording can convey is the mystique of the actual happening. The setting was almost unique in the New World. The vast nave, dominated by its rich altar and great stark crucifix, was backed temporarily by open scaffolding put up for some necessary re-pointing. Beyond this was the great mound of the central altar, and beyond this, in the distance, the high altar. The whole impression was one of expanding space, or to use another impossible phrase, receding distance. The height of the nave of St. John the Divine is so great that in theory people should be dwarfed by it, yet, due to the fact that the mighty cross seems to grow right out of the pavement, men stand taller. Tapestries done from the designs of Raphael warm the walls of stone. High above the enormous bronze doors, the State Trumpets stand out from the west wall. Four hundred thirty-two square feet of sunshine was let in when these doors were opened. Picture one of the world’s largest religious buildings filled to the point where people were sitting on the floor in every aisle and chapel. Through the doors could be seen the thousands of people not only on the steps, but also way out into Amsterdam Avenue. A brilliant organ recital has come to an end, and for an awesome period of time thousands of people are hushed in silence. The choirs enter, the welcome is extended, and the Solemn Eucharist begins and moves with increasing fire and joy towards its mighty conclusion. The ceremonial, by very nature of that which was happening and the size of the congregation, turned out to be an extraordinary combination of stateliness and what can only be described as free-wheeling liturgics. Processions might better have been described as penetrations. A Roman Catholic priest reads the Epistle, the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission makes a challenging address, a famous theologian from Harvard preaches – bright moments in a timeless setting. The giving of the Peace was in reality the congregation’s first opportunity to share in the activity of the liturgy – that to which music, prayers, lections, and preaching had been leading. After the litany for the peace of the world and the unity of all believers everywhere, the celebrant spoke peace to the congregation and then gave it to the assisting ministers, who in turn went down and gave it to the chorus, the servers and the congregation. It was fascinating to watch. What had started with religion’s timeless gesture of brotherly affection became, as it went through the congregation, a late twentieth century study in the expression of mutual regard. Some shook hands, some embraced, some hugged, some kissed and some just grinned happily at each other. The result was that when two of the Hair tribe brought forward the bread and wine at the Offertory it seemed that for once a whole congregation was involved in that which was being offered. Response to the deacon’s censing was warm and somehow deeply personal. Nearly four thousand people made their communion. The crowds were so dense that the sacrament had to be given at six communion stations. With quiet joy the seemingly endless line came forward. There was no pushing and no impatience. There was not only the consideration habitually shown to people with seeing-eye dogs, but there was also kindness shown to people who through lameness held others back. Thoughtful members of the congregation saw to it that the clergy were taken to people in wheelchairs that they too might be included in the Body. The calm splendor of the liturgy, constantly aware of the pulse of the music, provided that vibrant tension which is the essence of the drama of which religion is the mother. Its overtones united young and old, rich and poor and men and women, of every race and creed. Possibly one of the most moving comments on the whole affair was overheard by one of the clergy: after the “Peace,” one old lady said shyly, “He kissed me; I’ve never been kissed before.” I don’t know which “he” it was, but I think I know the ultimate one.

– The Reverend Canon Edward N. West Sub-Dean, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (From the liner notes for LSP-4632)

Credits

Mass in F by Galt MacDermot Sung by the choirs of St. Martin’s Parish, Manhattan, Dr. Eugene Hancock, Director; St. Mary’s Parish, Staten Island, and the Choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dr. Alec Wyton, Musical Director Conductor and electric piano: Galt MacDermot Hair Band Rhythm Section

Selections from the Musical Production Hair by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot Sung by the Broadway cast: Robalee Barnes, Alan Braunstein, Zenobia Conkerite, Dennis Cooley, Sally Eaton, Bobby Ferguson, Tadg Galleran, George Garcia, Gloria Goldman, Nat Grant, Delores Hall, Marta Heflin, Fluffer Hirsch, David Hunt, Ursuline Kairson, Bobby London, Charles O. Lynch, Robin McNamara, Nathaniel Morris, Allan Nicholls, Cecilia Norfleet, Angie Ortega, Dale Soules, Bryan Spencer, Tom Stovall, Valerie Williams, Kathrynann Wright New York Hair Musicians: Margaret Harris, electric piano and musical director Charlie Brown and Alan Fontaine, guitars Jimmy Lewis, bass Zane Paul, woodwinds and reeds Donald Leight and Eddy Williams, trumpets Warren Chaisson, percussion ldris Muhammad, drums

Introit, Sequence, Offertory, Responses, and Dismissal sung by the Choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City Organist: Jack W. Jones