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September 8, 2011
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

For general information about tickets, seating, parking, etc., for performances and events happening at the Center for the Arts, please contact the ticket office directly at 703-993-2787.





In celebration of the 40th anniversary of its world premiere

Produced by special arrangement with Boosey and Hawkes



·       The University Singers, Mason Symphony Orchestra

and members of the Green Machine Pep Band

·       Renowned baritone Douglas Webster as the Celebrant and

the director for this production

·       Soprano Abby Hendricks as the Acolyte

·       Special guests Choralis and Choralis Cantus Primo Youth Chorus


George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011 at 8 p.m.


FAIRFAX, Va., Sept. 8, 2011 – Considered one of the most innovative and controversial works of his legendary career, Leonard Bernstein wrote “Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” to explore our society’s crisis of faith. Forty years after its world premiere, this sensational piece continues to provoke a broad range of passionate reactions and its message is still incredibly relevant today. George Mason University’s School of Music is pleased to present a concert version of this epic masterwork, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2011. This performance of “Mass” will be held at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011 at 8 p.m.

This performance will feature the University Singers, under the direction of Stan Engebretson, director of Chorale Studies, and the Mason Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dennis M. Layendecker, Heritage Chair of Music and the director of Mason’s School of Music, as well as members of the Green Machine Pep Band. Special guests Choralis and Choralis Cantus Primo Youth Chorus of Washington, D.C. will also perform with the Mason ensembles, under the direction of founder and artistic director Gretchen Kuhrmann. Baritone Douglas Webster, who is considered one of the leading interpreters of this renowned work, will star as the Celebrant and will direct the production, while soprano Abby Hendricks will appear in the role of the Acolyte.

“‘Mass’ is a truly masterful combination of all that was uniquely Bernstein:  Broadway with opera, dance and theater mixed in; traditional orchestra with blues, marching and jazz bands; and faiths of all types – Jewish, Christian and agnostic,” Stan Engebretson said. “The soloists, including the Celebrant and choir of the church are contrasted with street characters who all lament about the causes of their day (and sadly, ours today as well) – war, societal ills and the question of everlasting life. And in the midst of it all, ‘Grant us peace,’ the theme that runs through the entire work, is so poignantly depicted at the end as a resounding call for us all to live as brothers and sisters in this world and care for one another. This message needs to be told to our young ones again and again.”

 At the request of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bernstein composed “Mass” for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 8, 1971. The premiere was directed by Gordon Davidson with additional texts by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz, sets by Oliver Smith, costumes by Frank Thompson and choreography by legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey.

“I was 21 when I first heard Bernstein's ‘Mass’ on recordings, and it changed my life,” Engebretson said. “I have loved this timeless piece for more than 40 years and it remains as fresh and inspiring on every hearing as it did on that first day. I wanted that experience for our students at George Mason University, too. The opportunity to work side by side with a leading guest artist [such as Douglas Webster] is a great experience for them, as they will have an opportunity to see how a major performing artist directs and performs a piece that he has championed throughout his career.”

Since 1988, Webster has performed “Mass” at prestigious venues across the country, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and in 2000, he even had the privilege of bringing the work to the Vatican for its premiere performance there. Webster has received praise for his portrayal of the Celebrant from audiences and critics alike, including The Washington Post, which wrote, “From his first appearance onstage in the guise of a folk singer to the core of the work as a priest and finally as a defeated man, Webster commanded audience attention with his expansive range of emotions and ardent voice,” after a performance at Catholic University in 2003.

“[The role of the Celebrant] is part and parcel of why I became a performer,” Webster said in an interview with the Denver Post. “It requires the talent I was born with, and then there’s the extra bit, almost intangible. It makes people think. Whether they disagree with the piece or it moves them in some great way, it still satisfies my artistic raison d’être, which is to provoke thought.”

Tickets for the performance are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors. A limited number of free tickets will also be available starting on Sept. 27 for George Mason University students who present a valid Mason ID at the Center for the Arts box office.


The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K.  Visit


About the College of Visual and Performing Arts

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) provides an academic environment in which the arts are explored as individual disciplines and interdisciplinary forms that strengthen one another. The college prepares students for careers as creators, performers, teachers, scholars, arts leaders and arts entrepreneurs. Understanding that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the Center for the Arts, the professional presentation and production arm of the college, welcomes a variety of professional and world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Students have the opportunity to perform, create and exhibit their work in a wide variety of public venues including a 2,000-seat Concert Hall. CVPA is home to the Schools of Music, Dance and Art, the Department of Theater, as well as the Computer Game Design, Arts Management and Film and Video Studies programs.


About George Mason University

George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country. Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. With Mason professors conducting groundbreaking research in areas such as climate change, public policy and the biosciences, George Mason University is a leading example of the modern, public university. George Mason University – Where Innovation Is Tradition.