April 28: Music Sunday Bluegrass Mass with Southern Rail

Annual Music Sunday with guest musicians Southern Rail. Sunday April 28.

An offering of “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” by Carol Barnett. This is an amazing work that beautifully combines traditional choral writing and bluegrass music. Music will include First Parish choir, conducted by Rev. Debra Morris-Bennett.

You wouldn’t think bluegrass music and a traditional choral mass could go together. But be prepared to change your mind on Sunday, April 28. That’s when the First Parish of Sudbury choir will be joined by well known bluegrass group Southern Rail to perform Carol Barnett’s “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.” It’s a rousing interpretation of the classical mass set to soaring refrains, intricate harmonies and freewheeling instrumentals. Conducted by First Parish Minister of Music, Rev. Debra Morris-Bennett, the performance is free and part of First Parish’s April 28 Sunday service, which begins at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

Southern Rail, the well known and loved New England-based bluegrass group first performed this work with First Parish’s choir in 2013. Members Jim Muller (guitar), Sharon Horovitch (acoustic bass), Rich Stillman (banjo) and John Tibert (mandolin) have invited fiddler Tim Roper and mandolin player Steve Roy to join them for this special musical service. You can look forward to hearing them throughout the rest of the service as well.

“A Bluegrass Mass” was originally commissioned for VocalEssence, an acclaimed professional choir in Minneapolis, with composer Carol Barnett and librettist Marisha Chamberlain on board. According to Chamberlain, “Great bluegrass music is infectious and lively, so it’s easy to see why any church would want to add bluegrass, but why call it a Bluegrass Mass unless there’s liturgy, too—a text in the bluegrass tradition? Bluegrass is more than a sound. The lyrics of so many Bluegrass songs display an unpretentious, earthy philosophy that is easy to sing and easy to understand: Adam lives just up the street and Eve’s the girl next door. Love is the major theme—frustrated yearning love, secret, satisfied love or boldly proclaimed love. And although romantic love between two people is huge in Bluegrass, so is love of God, the Gospel tradition. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, says John in the Gospel, which launches our Bluegrass Mass as an earthy, immediate story of love between Creator and creation.”

Southern Rail’s bluegrass music is high-energy exuberant fun, with riveting harmonies, irrepressible humor, and sparkling banjo and mandolin solo work. This talented quartet has been performing since 1978, and is about to release their 12th recording. Their reputation for strong original material, heart-stopping harmonies, and infectious good humor has spread to both coasts. The group’s performances range from folk festivals to bluegrass festivals, from coffeehouses and concert halls to church services, from art institutes to educational television. For more information, visit http://www.southernrail.com.