Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Report of World Premiere of Mass.

Here at the University of Steve in New York, we performed the Mass I've been composing for the past three years. Part writing exercise, in that it was an attempt to learn more about music and choral arranging/composition, and part gift to the community of Christ Church Bay Ridge, as well as a few statements of my own about faith, I guess I'd call this a graduation project, maybe.

The day was long in the beautiful building. I did not bring a camera. I know why. I needed to just be there, fully engaged. Not thinking about anything but the performance. I didn't want to be an observer of my life. I just wanted to live it.

However, Stephen Anthony Elkins brought a camera and took a few shots. This is with Andy Gale, who directed the evening. You may ask, why would we need a director? Aren't we just gonna stand there and sing? Well, no. Because I had some ideas about moving the choir into the "audience" or surrounding them, etc. but it was all vague.

Having Andy (and musical director Mark Janas) there to guide the evening, I didn't really have to do anything except run errands, rehearse my own solos -- yes, I sang three, along with playing the piano on "Antarctic Suite I: Landscape," which turned out better than I ever dreamed. It's a tricky little piano riff, and it's so in my bones, I just played it myself. 

Composer Steve Schalchlin with Director Andy Gale.
Composer Steve Schalchlin with Director Andy Gale.

Steve Schalchlin in church watching rehearsal.

Kalle Toivio

Conductor Mark Janas rehearsing in the warm afternoon.
Conductor Mark Janas rehearsing choir at Christ Church Bay Ridge.
Magnificent organ pipes displayed.
One of my goals was to demonstrate how valuable a music program can be for a church, and that when we relegate "arts" in our culture to a sideline activity, it's like cutting off our hands and feet.

For the members, it promotes community. For the church, it fills the halls with beauty.

And for me, it has been a school. An institute of higher learning. It's a safe place to try things and fail. When I began this journey, I never thought I'd write a Mass. It just seemed like a good idea. Not having grown up with Masses -- being raised Baptist -- I didn't really know what one was. I actually had to Google it.

But, slowly and painfully, for the past three years, I've written the "Ordinaries," one by one. These are five statements or chants or affirmations that compose the Mass. What I tried to do was to just write, musically, whatever emotion each one brought to me. For instance, the Kyrie made me feel a yearning from a place of feeling helpless. And on and on, each one was written in the original Latin, which is why I called it Missa Appassionata.

Then, after going to Sewanee last year, I learned that Episcopals prefer everything (but the Kyrie, which is in Biblical Greek) in English.

Steve Schalchlin and parishioner Lynne Pagano with
Jennifer Bassey.
Oy. Do you know it's like to take the music you've written according to the Latin and try to re-translate it back into English, and not just sorta get the words, but the words are specific, in a specific order. I compromised just a little, but it's all there.

I also, in putting this together, made it too hard for most choirs. It wasn't intentional. When you know something, you tend to think it's easy. But, we learned in rehearsal, this was not easy material. At all. In fact, it really complex and hard to learn. I felt sorry for my singers.

As for the concert itself, our friend Jennifer Bassey schlepped all the way out there -- she's an actress from All My Children. She played Marion Colby. She seemed to like it. Jim liked it.

A few people cried all the way through it.

It was an out-of-body experience for me. I was just glad I got through it and didn't make any mistakes during my parts.

As a composer, the best part was hearing the other soloists. It felt like every song was tailored just for them. In fact, the reverse was true. I knew their voices, so Mark and I picked the ones we thought would best embody the material. And man, were we right. These kids were amazing.

Mark Janas

Kalle Toivio

Andy Gale

Rebecca Aparicio
Maria Fernanda Brea
Natalie Dixon
Claire Gierber
Yunnie Park

Danette Sheppard 

Kendra Broom
Elise Gaugert
Emily Lockhart
Lori Lusted

Grant Bowen
Adam MacDonald
Aaron Sanko
Jake Wesley Stewart
Carlos Saenz
Stephen Wilde

Bobby Gamez
Sean Grant
Paul Kolecki
Greg Hoyt
Christopher Whipple

Missa Appassionata: The Bay Ridge Mass

“Fill It With Music” Soloist: Steve Schalchlin
“Kyrie Tremulare”
“Water in the Wilderness” (Isaiah 43: 16-21) Soloist: Natalie Dixon
4. PSALM (CHANTED)*** -- Psalm 29:1-4
“The Waters Have Lifted Me Up” Soloist: Adam MacDonald
“Sea Glass” Soloist: Claire Gierber
“Credo Sine Cera (ENGLISH)”
“Every Day, A New Amen”***  (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Soloists: Steve Schalchlin / Elise Gaugert
“Alleluia Celebrare”
“Lazarus Come Out”** – (John 11: 38-44) Soloist: Sean Grant 
---------THE PEACE--------
“Antarctic Suite I: Landscape”
“Sanctus (Holy, Holy)” Soloist: Maria Fernanda Brea
“My Thanksgiving Prayer”** Soloist: Steve Schalchlin
“Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)”
“Let the Living Waters Flow”* Soloist: Kendra Broom
“Gloria Jubilus”
“My Rising Up”**
Soloists: Steve Schalchlin / Danette Sheppard

For this concert, the traditional order of the Mass has been slightly altered.

Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin except where noted.
*Music & Arrangement by Mark Janas **Lyrics by Peter J. Carman  
***Music by Steve Schalchlin & Mark Janas

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