“…music is a spiritual food for which there is no substitute…”
— Zoltán Kodály
On Sunday, October 14, 2012 the Washington Master Chorale will present Kodaly’s stirring masterpiece, the Missa Brevis, along with a cappella motets from the Russian Orthodox tradition, including works by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Gretchaninoff, and others.
Kodály was not only a great Hungarian composer and educator; he was also a man of courage. Indeed, courage and spiritual nourishment are at the core of his 1944 masterpiece Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli (Short Mass in Time of War), composed for chorus and organ, a reworking of his “Organ Mass” composed in 1942. The piece would stand on its own for its harmonic impressionism and use of folksong idioms. It is all the more remarkable, however, because it was composed in 1944 while he was in hiding with his Jewish wife, Emma Sándor, in a Budapest convent during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. The piece was premiered in the cloakroom of the Budapest Opera House on February 11, 1945. Two days later, the Soviet allies liberated Budapest.
In the midst of the Holocaust, the 60 year-old Kodály sought comfort in a choral form rooted in a spiritual and ritual meal. The notion of the liturgy as a meal lies at the heart of both the Western Roman Mass and the Eastern Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. And both liturgies have their ritual roots in the Jewish tradition of the Passover meal.
Pre-Concert Lecture, 3:00 pm
Please join us for a pre-concert conversation on the dramatic story behind Kodály’s Missa Brevis and the turbulent history of Hungary in the decades leading up to the Soviet liberation on February 13, 1945.
From the close of World War I through the end of World War II, the Hungarian people experienced loss of territory and cultural identity, were ravaged by anti-Semitism and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews, and were occupied, first by the Axis powers and then by the Soviet liberators. Against this backdrop of a strife riven nation, Kodály composed his soaring tribute to salvation and humanity. Dedicated to his Jewish wife on the occasion of their 35th anniversary, the Missa Brevis exalts remembrance and resurrection and stands as a sublime tribute to faith, hope and redemption in times of profound intolerance and inhumanity.
The lecture has been developed in cooperation with scholars and resources from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
About Guest Artist, Paul Skevington
A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Paul Skevington completed his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in organ performance at Indiana University and earned a Doctorate degree in Liturgical Music from the Catholic University of America. He held the position of Assistant in Liturgical Music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., from 1984 – 1987. He is currently Minister of Music and Liturgy at Saint Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. In addition to his duties at Saint Luke, he maintains an active performing schedule, and appears regularly at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and other major venues in the Washington, D.C. area as an organist with chorus and orchestra. He gives solo recitals throughout the United States, including convention recitals for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) and American Guild of Organists (AGO). He appears on recordings on the Gothic, Summit, Sonoris, and Naxos labels.
Paul Skevington is past dean of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the AGO, serves as Chairperson for the NPM Section for Organists, and is a member of the organ faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. He spearheaded the effort to purchase one of Northern Virginia’s finest organs, the highly acclaimed, 61-rank, Steiner-Reck mechanical-action pipe organ at Saint Luke Church. Under Paul’s direction, Saint Luke has become a vital centre for performing and recording music and home for the popular Music in McLean Concert Series.