Crossroads: Bernstein100Austin Discussion Series


April 17, 2018 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Explore the story of the personal inspiration behind Leonard Bernstein's MASS.

The inspirations for MASS that can be found in Leonard Bernstein's personal history. His deep study of Judaism and the Catholic faith impacted the development and composition of MASS as well as many other compositions.   

Join us for a moderated discussion that will explore Bernstein's history and the impact that his personal faith had on the works format and composition.

This program is presented in partnership by the Bullock Texas State History Museum and Bernstein100Austin.

The Bullock Museum is owned and operated by the State of Texas through the State Preservation Board. Additional support of exhibitions and programs is provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.

About the Panelists

Peter Bay became Music Director and Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra in 1998. Maestro Bay has appeared with more than seventy-five different orchestras both nationally and internationally. A native of Washington, DC, Mr. Bay is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the Peabody Institute of Music. In 1994, he was one of two conductors selected to participate in the Leonard Bernstein American Conductors Program. He was also the first prize winner of the 1980 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Young Conductors Competition and a prize winner of the 1987 Leopold Stokowski Competition sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra in New York. In July 2012 he appeared in Solo Symphony, a choreographic work created for him by Allison Orr of Forklift Danceworks.

Fr. Larry Covington, a native of College Station, Texas is a graduate of Texas Lutheran College where he majored in Theology and Church Music. His further studies and degree work in music took him to the Soviet Union, Indiana University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the Spring of 1985 he received the Master of Divinity degree from Saint Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin June 8, 1985.  He completed further studies in homiletics at Princeton. In 2003 he was accepted into the College of Pastoral Leaders, a program at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. That same year he was named as a Fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington, DC.  In 2005 Texas Lutheran University bestowed the Distinguished Alumni Award, in recognition of his commitment to developing ecumenical relationships.  He is past President of the Texas Conference of Churches and past president of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Action of Central Texas. In June of 2014, after 21 years as pastor of St. Louis Church in Austin he was appointed by Bishop Joe Vasquez as Pastor of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Austin.  He is a composer, woodworker, painter and organ construction consultant and in his spare time has built four pipe organs.

Neil Blumofe is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas, a flourishing congregation of over 700 families. He holds Rabbinic Ordinations from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York and the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles. Rabbi Blumofe also holds the diploma of Hazzan (Vocal Cantorial Arts) from JTS.  Blumofe is on the faculty at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, where he teaches in the D.Min and M.Div programs.  He is former adjunct faculty at St. Edwards University.  He is the immediate past president of Interfaith Action of Central Texas.  In addition, Blumofe has a weekly podcast about the significance of jazz (Liner Notes), which airs weekly on the NPR affiliate radio station and is nationally distributed.  He also produces live musical events in Austin, where he speaks and performs with other musicians, creating awareness of the innovative power of tradition and the connections between the Jewish wisdom traditions and the improvisational majesty of jazz.  He is a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, a Mentor in CLAL (The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership), a member of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

The panel will be moderated by Pamela Benson Owens  of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

About MASS

Leonard Bernstein was asked by Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy to compose a piece for the 1971 inauguration of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  The creation from this effort was MASS:  A Theater Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers. Borne from a very volatile time in American history amidst a strong anti-war sentiment following the Vietnam War, MASS was a musical representation of a younger culture seeking a new direction in their government and spiritual direction.

With a fascinating reflection of the confusion and cultural instability of the 1970s, MASS uses an unorthodox mixture of musical genres, from rock and jazz to Broadway and classical.  Drawn from Bernstein's own personal exploration of the Jewish and Catholic traditions, the depiction of interfaith influences in MASS was yet another touchstone of controversy when it premiered. Read more from Bernstein100Austin.