Choral Arts presents world premiere Mass

So, just who is George Bristow? Choral Arts Cleveland and its director, Brian Bailey, invite you to find out as it brings to life the Mass in C by 19th-century American composer George Bristow in a world premiere of the composition. Supported in part by the citizens of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the evening begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, with a talk on Bristow and American classical music, followed by the choral performance. The venue is Fairmount Presbyterian Church, 2757 Fairmount Blvd., in Cleveland Heights.

The Mass in C  (1884–85) is filled with lush romantic phrasings that segue into joyously spirited, energetic and robust movements. Its expressive text setting infuses movements, such as the Kyrie with an evocative imploring quality, and the Credo with moods of triumph. Other artistic assets of the Mass include its varied use of vocal solos alternated with long choral sections and short instrumental interludes, and the use of bold homophonic styles. In it, said Bailey, “Bristow shows a command of compositional craft and an understanding of the voice. It is the work of a mature, confident composer who had found his unique voice.”  

Bristow's Mass is especially significant to Choral Arts because of Bailey’s work in resurrecting music that has been too long neglected. Intrigued by the musical and emotional strengths of this work, Bailey completed the first modern printed edition of Bristow’s Mass in C and presented it as part of his doctoral thesis at the University of Iowa. Prior to Bailey’s work, except for the Kyrie, which had been typeset, the Mass existed only in manuscript form. During Bristow’s lifetime, only two movements of his Mass were performed. Because there is no evidence that the work was ever performed in its entirety, this project will almost certainly be the world premiere of the complete work.

Now in its 45th year of bringing both well-known classics and premieres to its audiences, Choral Arts feels privileged to be sharing this forgotten work. The project continues the chorus’s commitment to showcasing forgotten and contemporary works alongside more familiar choral repertoire. The commitment is, in part, a result of listening to audiences who have frequenly told Choral Arts singers that they enjoy being introduced to new pieces and new ways of seeing and hearing choral music. Concert audiences have fully supported Choral Arts in exploring these paths, and have asked the membership and its director to do more of that kind of work.

Bailey is in his second year with Choral Arts, having filled the director position upon the retirement of former director Martin Kessler.

Bailey has also been director of choirs at Cleveland State University since 2009, where he conducts the CSU Chorale and University Chorus, coordinates the voice area, and teaches aural skills and conducting.

The Bristow Mass will be performed with the organ accompaniment fleshed out by Bailey in his 2016 thesis. Soloists for the performance are Anna White, soprano; Kimberly Lauridsen, mezzo; Tyler Young, tenor; and Jelani Watkins, bass. The concert is a free-will-donation event, open to the public. For more details, visit

Marge Geiger

Marge Geiger is a board member and singer for Choral Arts Society of Cleveland, an English professor at Tri-C East Campus, a Cleveland Heights resident for 30 years, and a patron of many Cleveland Heights businesses. She is married to Joe Geiger, a retired Cleveland Heights High School English teacher.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:49 AM, 03.02.2020