Earth Mass comes to Manchester


MANCHESTER — Visiting Manchester's First Congregational Church on Saturday, you may hear the unexpected sounds of whales, wolves, seals, and loons ringing from the choir.

On May 6 at 4 p.m. the First Congregational Church Chancel Choir will perform Paul Winter's "Earth Mass," under the direction of the FCC's Music Director Linda Hueckel.

"Earth mass is an unusual creature. I think when people think about performing a Mass in a traditional sense they associate it with the liturgy of the Church, classical music, organ and strings," said Hueckel. "While Earth Mass retains a little bit of that, it is a very different experience."

The performance, in honor of Earth Day and Green Up Day, has not been performed in Manchester for seven years.

"People were really touched by it last time we did Earth Mass, and there was a demand to bring it back," said Hueckel. "It's something that I would like to do more often."

Earth Mass was first performed in 1981, and has been continued annually at New York's St. John the Divine Cathedral. The piece was initially composed by jazz musician Paul Winter in conjunction with James Morton, Dean of St. John's at the time.

"Paul Winter was really into ecology and the earth, and he got the idea to create this mass which is really dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the earth," said Hueckel. "While Earth Mass keeps some of the traditional text, it adds in pieces that have nothing to do with a traditional mass."

Earth Mass features instruments more common in a jazz ensemble rather than a church choir, and is set to contemporary music with hints of gospel alongside Brazilian and West African rhythms.

This years performance will also feature selections from James Taylor, Carly Simon and Frank Ticheli.

"The uncommon thing about Earth Mass is that several of the pieces are accompanied in the background with either the sounds of humpback whales, harp seals, and the Alaskan tundra wolf," said Hueckel. "It's a whole different experience."

Tickets are $15 for adults, but admission is free for those under 18 years old. Tickets can be bought in advance at the First Congregational Church, or bought at the door.

For more information, contact the First Congregational Church at 802-362-2709.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.


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