Local musicians, choir to perform Robert Ray's famed 'Gospel Mass'

2014-04-05T00:00:00Z Local musicians, choir to perform Robert Ray's famed 'Gospel Mass'Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

On Sunday at 3 p.m., the public is invited to hear Robert Ray’s “Gospel Mass” at First United Methodist Church, 2100 Fourth Ave. N. It is being performed by First United Methodist Church Revelation! Choir, as well as the First Congregational Church Chancel Choir, in a joint collaboration.

Trevor Krieger will conduct the free performance. A goodwill offering will be taken.

The performance features the local musical talents of Kathy Honaker on piano; Mark Bryan on electric bass; Luke Kestner on drums; Amy Brown Logan, soprano solo; Kristy Pruit Montgomery, alto solo; and John Roberts, tenor solo and trombone solo.

Thirty years ago, Robert Ray sat down to write “Gospel Mass,” an experimental work, for a one-time performance. To his surprise, the piece caught on and became a seminal work of African-American music, performed by choirs and churches all over the world. There’s no doubt in Ray’s mind that God played a role in the writing of his now famous “Mass,” which sets the words from the Catholic Mass to the rhythm and harmony of African-American music.

“God controls everything I do,” said Ray, a composer, conductor and music educator. “It was written in about a two-week period. The hard part for me was not being a formally trained composer. The creativity was a result of divine inspiration. He was working with me.”

But it was also, he agrees, the right time and place. The Black Power movement was pushing cultural pride and identity, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of inclusion still felt fresh, and white audiences were eager to embrace gospel music.

For more information, call the church office at 245-3001.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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