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DAYTON OH (April 27, 2011) – The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2010-2011 Miami Valley & Good Samaritan Hospitals Classical Series will conclude in spectacular fashion with performances of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers on Friday and Saturday, May 13 & 14, 2011, both performances at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center.   

This production will fuse the talents of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra with faculty and students from Wright State University in an unprecedented way.  Neal Gittleman, Music Director of the DPO, will conduct.  Greg Hellems of the WSU Department of Theatre is stage director and Gina Walther, of WSU’s Dance Department, is choreographer.  Staging has been designed by WSU’s Pam Knauert Lavarnway and choral forces are being prepared by WSU’s Hank Dahlman.  The production is under the overall artistic supervision of WSU’s W. Stuart McDowell, chair of the WSU Department of Theatre, Dance, and Motion Pictures.   

All instrumental musicians – on stage and in the pit, and including rock and blues bands as well as traditional orchestral configurations – will come from the ranks of the DPO, while all actors, singers, and dancers – more than 100 in total – will be WSU students.  The production will also include the Kettering Children’s Choir under the direction of Natalie DeHorn and noted tenor John Wesley Wright in the crucial role of The Celebrant.

Leonard Bernstein’s MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers was commissioned by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the national arts center named in honor of her late husband, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.  The work premiered as part of the Kennedy Center’s opening festivities on September 8, 1971.  

Bernstein’s MASS is based on the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholic Church, but is not at all a traditional concert setting.  Although there are liturgical passages that are sung in Latin, MASS also includes additional texts in English written by Bernstein, Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (of Wicked fame), and pop/folk singer Paul Simon.

According to the composer’s daughter, Nina Bernstein: “The piece follows the liturgy exactly, but it is juxtaposed against frequent interruptions and commentaries by the Celebrant and the congregation, much like a running debate. There is stylistic juxtaposition as well, with the Latin text heard electronically through speakers or sung by the chorus, and the interruptions sung in various popular styles including blues and rock-and-roll. On the narrative level, the piece relates the drama of a Celebrant whose faith is simple and pure at first, but gradually becomes unsustainable under the weight of human misery, corruption, and the trappings of his own power.”

MASS is an enormous piece. It calls for a large pit orchestra, two choruses plus a children’s choir, a Broadway-sized cast (with ballet company), and a rock band. It may seem ironic that such multitudes are marshaled for a work that celebrates a man’s “Simple Song”: his love and faith in God. But in the end, that simplicity is shown to be all the more powerful because of it.”

Two years after its premiere, MASS was first performed in Europe (Vienna) by the Yale Symphony Orchestra. In the orchestra pit was young violinist and Yale student, Neal Gittleman.

Tickets for the Bernstein Mass performances on May 13 & 14 range from $9 – $59 and are available by calling (888) 228-3630 or by ordering on the web at www.daytonphilharmonic.com.  This groundbreaking collaboration between the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Wright State University promises to be the regional performance event of the season, if not the decade.  

The Dayton Philharmonic’s 2010-2011 Classical Series is sponsored by Miami Valley & Good Samaritan Hospitals.  The Presenting Sponsor of the May 13-14 performances is the Miriam Rosenthal Memorial Trust Fund.  The Weekend Sponsor is The Allegro Fund of The Dayton Foundation.  Supporting Sponsor is Wright State University, with additional support provided through CELIA.  The sponsor for Saturday night, May 14, is The Milt Kantor Family.