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The 1970s saw a number of religious rock musicals, notably Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, and Bernstein was so impressed by the latter that he invited 23-year-old writer Stephen Schwartz to provide lyrics for Mass—once again, Bernstein reached beyond his own world of classical music for a collaborator to help him create a large-scale musical theater piece, as he had with West Side Story.

Mass was Bernstein's most ambitious theater work. Despite its adaptation of the Latin text interspersed with songs, "numbers," choreographic sequences, and symphonic interludes, Mass is ecumenical in nature and cannot be categorized.

Perhaps the most accurate description of the piece is "pageant." With approximately 200 performers, including dancers, singers, a boy chorus, rock and blues singers, actors, and two orchestras, as well as a marching band—who play through the audience—Mass is a musical and theatrical experience.

Bernstein's Meditation No 2 allows both audience and celebrant a moment of contemplation.


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