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The Philadelphia Orchestra Presents Leonard Bernstein’s MASS

April 21, 2015

Performances represent the pinnacle of the Orchestra’s multi-season requiem cycle

Epic and rarely-performed production provides unique opportunity to bring together on one stage musicians from throughout the community



(Philadelphia, April 21, 2015)—Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads  the first complete Philadelphia Orchestra performances of Leonard Bernstein’s epic and rarely-performed MASS, April 30-May 3, in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. For more on Bernstein’s MASS, including in-depth blog posts, audio clips, and ticket purchasing information, click here.

Bernstein’s MASS was conceived as a requiem mass for John F. Kennedy in conjunction with the dedication of the Kennedy Center in 1971. The legendary composer and conductor’s sacred work draws on Broadway, religious, and popular influences to explore themes of religious beliefs, individual identify, war, and peace, all as relevant today as when the piece was premiered. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s large-scale production provides the unique opportunity to engage singers and instrumentalists from throughout the community. Nézet-Séguin leads
a diverse collection of performers of all ages, from 16 veteran Broadway “street” singers, collegiate performers from the Westminster Symphonic Choir and Temple University Concert Choir, high school dance students from the Rock School for Dance, student musicians from the School District of Philadelphia and Temple University and the even younger students of the American Boychoir. Theatrical elements and stage direction by Kevin Newbury bring Bernstein’s stunning vision to life. The performances will be preceded by events that enhance the concert experience, provide thematic context, and facilitate meaningful conversations among audiences.

“MASS is equal parts rock concert, story-telling theater, and classical symphony, all coming together to create one experience that defies categorization,” said Stage Director Kevin Newbury. “The piece does what good art does best: It allows us to see ourselves and feel less alone as we ask urgent questions about our institutions, our leaders, and our beliefs. It also celebrates community in the most visceral way possible: through music.”

The program’s spiritual heart is represented by the Celebrant, performed by tenor Kevin Vortmann. Throughout the course of the work, the Celebrant suffers a personal crisis of faith, brought on by the increasingly disjointed and disillusioned voices of the world around him. This struggle is represented by the juxtaposition of symphonic and popular music styles, sacred and secular texts, and a robed choir and “street” singers. The Celebrant completes his journey towards reconciliation and peace unifying his previously fractured community.

Newbury, who served as stage director for last season’s presentation of Richard Strauss’s Salome, co-presented with Opera Philadelphia, developed a creative direction for MASS that involves utilizing the Verizon Hall stage in an entirely new way. In addition to the orchestra’s onstage seating, the orchestra pit will be opened for the first time since the Hall’s opening, allowing for the presence of a second orchestra. The string sections and percussion will be down in the pit, while the stage orchestra will include winds, brass, percussion, and assembled rock band. Positioned along the back of the stage is the robed chorus of more than 100 singers. In the middle of the stage sits an open area with benches set up for the soloists. The complete transformation of the concert hall brings together hundreds of performers, musicians, community members, and cutting-edge technology for a powerful theatrical experience.

The Philadelphia Orchestra joins community partners in presenting pre-concert ancillary activities revolving around MASS’s themes. The Orchestra, in collaboration with the Dialogue Institute at Temple University, presents Bernstein’s MASS: An Interfaith Dialogue, a panel discussion inspired by the exploratory nature of MASS and the questions it raises about religion, faith, and peace, on Wednesday, April 22, at 6 PM in the Chapel of Four Chaplains at the Temple Performing Arts Center (located at 1837 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia). The hour-long discussion–moderated by Dialogue Institute Board member Ellen Frankel, and including representatives from Christian/Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim traditions–will be followed at 7:30 PM by a Temple University multi-choir concert in Lew Klein Hall, during which Temple’s Concert Choir will perform excerpts from MASS. Temple’s vocal groups have a rich history of performing with The Philadelphia Orchestra, having first appeared with the ensemble in 1933. Both the discussion and concert are free and open to the public. An abbreviated version of this program will be repeated as the May 1 and 3 PreConcert Conversations, held in the Kimmel Center’s Rendell Room. Hazzan David Tilman leads a 30-minute PreConcert Conversation on May 2. A member of the Bernstein estate leads the PreConcert Conversation on Thursday, April 30. 


Bernstein’s MASS
April 30 at 8 PM – Thursday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
May 1 at 8 PM – Friday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
May 2 at 8 PM – Saturday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
May 3 at 2 PM – Sunday afternoon — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Bernstein                      MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers – 40/40 Project

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor
Kevin Vortmann Tenor (Celebrant)

Sarah Uriarte Berry
Julia Burrows Soprano
Morgan James Soprano
Meredith Lustig Soprano
Hilary Ginther Mezzo-soprano
Bryonha Marie Parham Mezzo-soprano
Lyn Philistine Mezzo-soprano
Pearl Sun Mezzo-soprano
E. Clayton Cornelious Tenor
Devin Ilaw Tenor
Benjamin Krumreig Tenor
J.D. Webster Tenor
Timothy McDevitt Baritone
Kent Overshown Baritone
Nathaniel Stampley Baritone
Zachary James Bass
Douglas Butler Boy Soprano
Daniel Voigt Boy Soprano
Westminster Symphonic Choir (Joe Miller Director)
Temple University Concert Choir (Paul Rardin Director)
Joe Miller Choral Preparation
American Boychoir (Fernando Malvar-Ruiz Music Director)
The Rock School for Dance Education (Bojan Spassoff President and Director)
Temple University Diamond Marching Band (Matthew Brunner Director)

Kevin Newbury
Stage Director
Victoria “Vita” Tzykun Set Design
Al Crawford Lighting Design
Paul Carey Costume Design
Steve Colby Sound Design
Darrel Maloney Video Design
Lawrence Keigwin Choreography
Stephanie Klapper Casting Director
Lynn Baker Music Preparation

The Bernstein MASS performances are made possible in part by the generous support of the William Penn Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  Additional support has been provided by the Presser Foundation.

Tickets start at $40, 215.893.1999 or philorch.org


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