The GSO Chorus, accompanied by the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, presents Robert Ray’s unique and powerful Gospel Mass.
Robert Ray, who wrote his Gospel Mass in 1979, died in 2022 at the age of seventy-six after a notable career at the University of Illinois-Urbana and later work with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Chorus. His setting of the Mass came about thanks to the interest of Catholic leaders at the time who wished to include African-America music in the liturgy. Ray composed the Mass in only two weeks and conceived the piece as a one-time, experimental performance with the Black Student Chorus which he founded at Urbana. However, its instant popularity drew the attention of Jenson / Hal Leonard Music and quickly became a top seller across the nation.
Ray stands in a long line of composers who have turned to the Mass as a compositional framework, but his Gospel Mass is a singular achievement as one of the first major works in the improvisatory gospel style to be notated for chorus and instruments. Hallmarks of gospel music such as three-part vocal harmony, improvisation with a soloist, modulations, and a rhythm combo figure prominently along with the unexpected addition of strings and woodwinds from the orchestra. In the spirit of inclusivity, Ray chose an English adaptation of the Mass which makes it appealing for audiences in concert and liturgical contexts.
The GSO Chorus gave a memorable performance of Ray’s Gospel Mass several years ago. This season, it will be paired with new compositions by J. Jakari Rush, accompanist for the GSO Chorus.
J. Jakari Rush TBA
Robert Ray Gospel Mass