Primary tabs

The Mass of the Americas to Premiere in St. Mary’s Cathedral

December 3, 2018

For the first time in 47 years — since the Installation Mass for its opening in 1971 — San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary will host the performance of another Mass written for it. (The church has served as the venue for several Festival of the Mass events.)

Bay Area composer Frank La Rocca’s commissioned Mass of the Americas will be celebrated on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It is the Saturday before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe for which the San Francisco Archdiocese hosts a large celebration, starting with a procession through the streets to the Cathedral plaza, replete with Marian statues, horses, and Aztec dancers.

The event will be televised and livestreamed on EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network, which is a global Catholic television, radio, and news network.

The text of the Mass of the Americas is in Spanish, Latin, English and the Aztec dialect Nahuatl. Without addressing the Catholic Church’s controversial history in Latin America, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is quoted as prompting the idea of honoring Mary in both her forms — a simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the United States) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (the patroness of both Mexico and all the Americas).

The Archbishop asked, “Why not create a new Mass that unites Anglo and Latino churches, popular hymns and sacred music? Why not create a Mass of the Americas that embodies the truth that Mary unites all of us as her children across diverse cultures?”

Going even beyond that, the Archbishop initiated the project that asked La Rocca to weave together music from the musical traditions of Africa, Asia, South and Central America, Europe, and the United States in a single Mass: “a really musically universal Mass that touches all the tradition of the regions of the world.”

La Rocca composes primarily choral music for both sacred and secular choirs. The California State University East Bay Singers premiered his Remember (from a poem by Christina Rossetti), three of his works were performed at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, and premieres of Remember are scheduled in Arizona and Ohio this Fall.

He has joined the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music as composer-in-residence, and on the institute’s website, there is an extensive interview with him about The Mass of the Americas, including this:

If the aim of the Mass is to demonstrate the way Mary unifies all God’s children, what happens at the end of the Mass of the Americas is nothing short of a miracle. The Advent season’s recessional is “Alma Redemptoris Mater.” At the very end, as a punctuation to this grand Mass, La Rocca added a short passage for organ and string quartet.

After the choir completes the singing of the hymn, the organ continues “singing” the “Alma Redemptoris Mater.” Then the strings begin “La Guadalupana.”

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].