Is there such a thing as new music that is at home with the fathers of the church and old music that soars? Since October 2020, the High Mass at Saint Mary Grand (12 noon each Sunday) has been a natural environment for music that invites improvisation and discourse with the written tradition in the Catholic Church, in a living community in the oldest continually worshipped-in church in New York. Doug Balliett, professor of historical performance at the Juilliard School, has been a resident maestro, uniting a tradition of music including polyphonic masses, bassoon sonatas, cantatas in the tradition of Bach, dueling choirs, new hymnody, all composed for a multi ethnic community; a living mass in an antebellum church made for this kind of music.
Sunday’s 12 PM mass includes instrumental and vocal music from the Renaissance, baroque, and classical periods, as well as freshly composed works, led by Doug Balliett. Students from Juilliard regularly join the ensemble in an ongoing partnership, and a wide cast of singers rotate appearances in cantatas, polyphonic masses, and new works. Past projects have included the full-length Gawain and the Green Knight and an all-night Dante Vigil for All-Saints Day. Plans for the future include a community choir, concert performances in the Grand Hall, and participatory events.