Sunday service features 'Gospel Mass'

Wilton Congregational Church, at 70 Ridgefield Road, will present the high-spirited “Gospel Mass” during the morning service on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 10, accompanied by a jazz trio of piano, string bass and drums.

Composer Robert Ray set the traditional mass text in a synthesis of jazz, gospel and classic styles, which the church adult choir and guest singers, along with pianist Cindy Veazey, Suzanne Fleishaker on string bass and drummer Rick Quintenal will offer during the service.

Mr. Ray was asked to compose an African-American style Mass  shortly after he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1980. The product of his efforts was Gospel Mass, an experimental work, intended for a one-time performance.

“There was an incredible response,” Mr. Ray recalled. “We performed to jam-packed houses. To have that kind of response to the first work I’d ever written was very gratifying.”

Thinking it would never be performed again, he filed the music away for a few years until a friend requested copies for his high school chorus. Gospel Mass,  which sets the words from the Catholic Mass to the rhythm and harmony of gospel music, would eventually be  performed by choirs all over the world.

The piece, Mr. Ray believed, struck an ecumenical chord that “allowed people of all denominations or faiths to embrace the style.”

All are invited to attend this special service, which will be led by the Rev. Dr. Arnold Thomas. Minister of Music Richard Glafke will conduct the choir and musicians.