Bringing the worlds of bluegrass and choral music together
“Come Away to the Skies: A High Lonesome Mass”
The Earl Scruggs Center: Music & Stories from the American South in conjunction with Stonecutter Foundation of Rutherford County announces a unique two-day choral event to help celebrate the musical traditions of the South and offer to the public and choral students the opportunity to hear and participate in two unique performances. This is the first of two events. Monday, April 14, 7:00 at the Don Gibson Theatre, Come Away to the Skies: a High Lonesome (Bluegrass) Mass will be performed by the Rutherford Community Chorus under the direction of Tony Spencer. Special guest for this two day event will be Dr. Tim Sharp, Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association in Oklahoma City, Ok, and co-composer of the mass.
The mass is truly unique in that Dr. Sharp combined the song traditions of the South and the ordering of a traditional high mass into a poignant celebration of traditions and faith. Dr. Sharp will make comments about the writing of the mass during the performance. The accompaniment will be a five piece blue grass ensemble and piano accompaniment. (for a more in-depth description, see the excerpt from program notes at the end of this listing)
Through the generosity of Stonecutter Foundation of Rutherford County and a private donor, tickets to this event are free. Tickets are limited to four per person and must be reserved in advance through the Don Gibson Theatre. Tickets may be reserved online at www.DonGibsonTheatre.com or by calling the Theatre at 704-487-8114. This performance will be held at the Don Gibson Theatre located at 318 South Washington Street in Shelby, NC.
Excerpted from program notes…
This collection of music is a winsome set of folk-hymn arrangements originating in the mid-nineteenth century collections of the Sacred Harp and Southern Harmony, and organized around a significant liturgy of the church. The hymnbooks from which this music is found were unique to the southern region of the United States.
The service known as a High Mass comes from the ordering of the Christian church liturgy into a standardized theological and dramatic liturgical flow.
The adjective “high” before the word “mass” partially indicates a service that is chanted and sung, as differentiated from a service that is mainly spoken. The historic texts, usually known by their Latin name, form the various sections of the traditional mass: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.
The working title for this collection plays on the word “High Mass”, by inserting a term unique to the history of the bluegrass musical style, which is the word “lonesome.” This description, coined by Bill Monroe, the so-called “Father of Bluegrass Music”, is the idea of bluegrass music as a “high, lonesome sound.” Monroe is referring to his own vocal quality and range, as well as a modal melodic contour, a quality shared by bluegrass vocalists such as Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, and also heard in female musicians such as Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton. The subtitle, A High, Lonesome Mass plays on this combination of both service and sound.
The folk-hymns used to carry forward the ideas of the individual sections of the mass—“Kyrie”- “Lord, Have Mercy”; “Gloria”- “Glory to God in the Highest”; “Sanctus”-“Holy, Holy, Holy”-“Benedictus”-“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”; “Agnus Dei”-“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”—possess the same theological themes as these historic sections. These folk-hymns used come primarily from the Scots-Irish theological and musical traditions, found uniquely in the American South, and published in the hymn collections mentioned above. Such hymn collections flourished throughout the American South in the mid-nineteenth century, and are repositories of some of the greatest hymns of that era.
The ballad and song tradition that migrated with early Irish, Scots-Irish, Welsh, and English settlers into the southern Appalachian areas of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, was as natural as the transposition of their verbal languages and customs. The thousands of songs that flooded into the valleys of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers came from the lips of generations of folk performers of Southern Appalachia, and found their way into the culture and ways of the American South.