Austin Churches to Offer Three Performances of Robert Ray's Gospel Mass

     Three Austin churches will join forces to offer three community performances of Robert Ray's modern masterpiece, Gospel Mass.  Performances will be held on April 28th and 29th at St. James Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church of Austin and St. Michael's Episcopal
        The concerts will feature the Sanctuary Choir of The First Baptist Church along with the choral group Austin Singers and the Austin Community College Choruses.  The voices will be supported by the Pamela Hart Quintet.
    Composed in 1978, the Gospel Mass premiered at the University of Illinois as performed by the University's Black Chorus.  Ray wrote the work when he was a liturgy team leader for the National Office of Black Catholics.  The Gospel Mass is Dr. Ray's interpretation of 2,000 years of liturgical tradition as influenced with the more contemporary music of the African-American Church.
      "It is my desire to combine centuries of old traditions of Mass settings with sounds of the contemporary Black Church," Ray said.  "The move from Latin to English created new opportunities for composers to express their feelings about the texts of the Ordinary of the Mass.  I wanted everyone to experience the sense of joy and celebration that is generally felt in true African-American worship."
     Under the direction of Louise Kemp Avant, the First Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir has enjoyed several collaborations with other groups in the Austin arts community.  In February 2000, the choir performed Mozart's Requiem Mass in Bass Hall as a part of Ballet Austin's production of "My Wall of Names:  A remembrance of those that have passed before us and a celebration of life and spirit."  In April 2010, the Sanctuary Choir celebrated the 25th anniversary of the group with Chaski, joining them in a performance of Misa Criolla by Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez.
    Performances of the Gospel Mass will be:
- Saturday, April 28th, at 7:30 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, located at 1941
  Webberville Road;
- Sunday, April 29th, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Austin, located at 901 Trinity; and
- Sunday, April 29th, at 3 p.m. at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, located at 1500 N .Capital
  of Texas Highway
     Tickets for the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances are $15 at the door for general admission - with free admission for ACC students and staff.  The   Sunday morning performance will be free of charge, but contributions will be accepted.
(Photo of Robert Ray courtesy
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