In Praise of Old and New

In Praise of Old and New

Thomas Oboe Lee's `Mass for the Holy Year 2000' debuts April 15

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Boston College's commemoration of the new millennium will continue with the premiere on Saturday, April 15, of "Mass for the Holy Year 2000," a composition by Prof. Thomas Oboe Lee (Music) that will be performed by the University Chorale at 8 p.m. in the Newton Campus Trinity Chapel.

Lee's work was commissioned by the University and supported by a Research Incentive Grant as well as through the Jesuit Institute, the Jesuit Community of Boston College and the Charles W. Englehard Foundation. The concert is among a number of events on campus this year that will mark two millennia of Christianity.

Lee, who is also a jazz flutist and performs with the group Departed Feathers, said the piece blends contemporary poetry with ancient Latin to provide a new perspective on the themes of faith and redemption.

Prof. Thomas Oboe Lee (Music)

"It's not a liturgy, per se, but the work does express some of the eternal questions about God and our existence," said Lee. "There is a blend of the new and the old."

For example, between the Latin Kyrie and Gloria, Lee interpolates "Meditation" by Elizabeth Kirschner, a former faculty member in the English Department, which begins:

Out of myself, I was looking for God
In silken streams the moon was told
Where I bent down in ancient night
Over my people, my death, my soul.

Other poems used in "Mass" are "Truth," by Claude McKay, a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance; "And I Remain With You," by Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun killed by Nazis because of her Jewish heritage and canonized by Pope John Paul II; and "April 4 1968," Thomas Merton's spare but evocative verses on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's the kind of work that is very appropriate for a Jesuit university," said Music Department Chairman Assoc. Prof. T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, a coordinator for the event. "What Tom has done is show how an institution like Boston College can influence a faculty member, and how that faculty member in turn can influence Boston College."

University Chorale Director John Finney says "Mass" has posed a special challenge for the ensemble.

"Tom has created an incredibly beautiful, intense piece," he explained. "A big part of preparing a chorus for a performance is for them to hear the piece, then take it and make it their own. 'Mass for the Holy Year' is brand new, however, so there was no recording of it for the Chorale members to listen to. But they've worked hard at becoming familiar with the piece."

The Chorale previewed selections of the composition during their spring break tour of Prague and Vienna, Finney said, which has helped their preparation for the April 15 concert.

Ticket information for "Mass for the Holy Year 2000" is available at ext.2-4994.


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