Cue the marching band: How the L.A. Phil will bring a little mayhem onstage for Bernstein's 'Mass'
By Tim Greiving
Jan 31, 2018 | 6:00 AM
For two words to describe Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” as a work of musical theater, try “ambitious” and “sprawling.”
Composed in 1971, shortly after Bernstein left an 11-year stint as music director for the New York Philharmonic, his “piece for singers, players and dancers” is about a priest officiating a religious service, surrounded by choir singers and a “street chorus” of hippies as they all struggle with faith in the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic will present four performances of “Mass” in Walt Disney Concert Hall beginning Thursday and calling upon a host of, yes, singers, players and dancers. The director is Elkhanah Pulitzer, who directed the L.A. Phil’s production of the John Adams opera “Nixon in China” last year.
Bernstein, a strong proponent of eclecticism, mingled avant-garde classical, rock, blues and, of course, his own Broadway-friendly style within the score. He also wrote most of the lyrics. To tackle this musical sprawl, “Mass” features an orchestra, multiple choirs and a marching band — and an excuse for us to look at the production, by the numbers:
Minutes of music: 100
Set pieces: 6
UCLA Wind Ensemble players: 29
L.A. Master Chorale singers: 64
L.A. Children’s Chorus performers: 36
Other human voices: 22
Total number of instruments: 100-plus
Total number of people on stage: 242
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Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.