Friday, September 21, 2012

Pestering Stanley

This Sunday our choirs will sing Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass at our 9:30 and 11 a.m. services. I have been pestering Stanley Thurston for a repeat ever since they sang the Gospel Mass last year.  It is a marvelous work and our choirs absolutely nailed it.
Stanley Thurston

Robert Ray is a classically trained pianist and composer who never really paid much attention to gospel music until he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois and was asked (probably because he is African-American) to work with the University Black Chorus. 

As a result of this experience he combined his own classical training and his exposure to gospel music to compose the Gospel Mass in 1978.   

After the Vienna Boys Choir performed a selection from the Gospel Mass at a concert in St. Louis last year, Gary Scott, writing on a St. Louis Magazine blog, argued that this is the way classical music has always worked. Classical music has always drawn from indigenous sources such as Middle Eastern liturgical chants and Indo-European melodic traditions, Scott said. 

Robert Ray
So when Robert Ray drew from the gospel sounds of his university choir to compose a mass, he was following  a great classical tradition. 

Gary Scott insists that classical music was practicing multiculturism long before the term was invented.  

Until Sunday when you get to hear the Foundry choirs sing it, you might enjoy this video of the Agnus Dei movement from the Gospel Mass performed by the choir of the First United Methodist Church of Lexington, KY.


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