In 2006, Mike and Kay McCarthy, fans of diverse musical genres, decided to commission a piece which combined the folk sounds of bluegrass with the majesty of classical choral music. Composer Carol Barnett and librettist Marisha Chamberlin combined efforts to create The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass. The result is a brilliant and exhilarating blend of the classical mass, modern choral sophistication, insightful poetry and traditional bluegrass instrumentation.
The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass was premiered in 2007 by Monroe Crossing and award winning choral group VocalEssence under the direction of Philip Brunelle. Since then, Monroe Crossing has performed the piece over 60 times with choirs from California to Washington D.C. and many points in between. In 2013, under the direction of Kathy Menk, Monroe Crossing performed the piece in New York City at Carnegie Hall. They returned to Carnegie Hall the following year for a repeat performance, this time re-uniting with Philip Brunelle. In 2016, Monroe Crossing teamed up with Missoula based choir, Dolce Canto, and, under the direction of Peter Park, performed the piece at a variety of venues in South Korea!
And now there is a companion piece! Distinguished Concerts International New York commissioned Carol Barnett and Marisha Chamberlin to author another choral meets bluegrass project. The result was Mortals & Angels: A Bluegrass Te Deum which premiered in Carnegie Hall in 2016 with bluegrass superstars Dailey & Vincent along with Distinguished Concerts Singers International conducted by Jonathan Griffith. In November, 2017 Monroe Crossing will re-unite with VocalEssence and Philip Brunelle to produce this wonderful piece in Minneapolis. This performance will also premiere two choral arrangements by Carol Barnett of original numbers by Monroe Crossing's Lisa Fuglie.
The World Beloved was recorded by Monroe Crossing and VocalEssence for the Clarion label. Learn more about the album on ourCD page.
Enjoy this recent performance with Monroe Crossing amd the Macalester Concert Choir under the direction of Matthew Mehaffey.
Performances of the "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" are listed below.
Review of the World Premiere Concert William Randall Beard, Minneapolis Star Tribune -
January 22, 2007
Carol Barnett’s amazing “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” was given its world premiere by the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers in collaboration with the bluegrass band Monroe Crossing at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on Friday night. This was not an easy partnership…but her music was idiomatic enough and the musicians flexible enough that it sounded perfectly natural…Barnett traversed the two idioms quite ingeniously, bringing out the best in both ensembles. The contrasts between the
sophisticated classical choral sound and the jubilant bluegrass harmonies were effectively used to make the text come alive…the triumphant Gloria…was an exuberant success. Likewise, the Credo…became a powerful Gospel number. This mass was a compelling statement of faith that ended on a note of sublime grace and peace.
Composer's Program Note
To bring the solemnity of the classical choir-based mass together with the down home sparkle of bluegrass—now there’s an assignment. My highest hope is that listeners coming from one tradition—classical or bluegrass—and perhaps dubious about the other, might discover something new and wonderful in the combination, as I have. Composing the music for The World Beloved has given me the chance to write cheery sacred music— all too rare in a medium rife with staid and even lugubrious settings. And it’s brought me back to memories of music heard while visiting my grandparents, country music with a church flavor that told stories and came out of a scratchy old record player. Grandma would not have allowed dancing, but under the table I tapped my toes.
Some performances and educational programs are "funded, in part, by the Minnesota State Arts Board through the arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the Legacy Amendment vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008."