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Revealing MasksExotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater$
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W. Anthony Sheppard

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520223028

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520223028.001.0001

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God in Popular Music (al) Theater

God in Popular Music (al) Theater

(p.231) 14 God in Popular Music (al) Theater
Revealing Masks

W. Anthony Sheppard

University of California Press

The reviews of Leonard Bernstein's Mass indicate that many critics received the work as a product of Bernstein's career in musical theater. Bernstein's combination of religious themes and imagery with popular music in Mass raises other examples from the popular sphere in the later 1960s and early '70s exhibiting similar features and intended for similar purposes. As with Mass, these examples were often designed to function as music of both moral renewal and social criticism. In part, this trend was an ecumenical and commercial response to the post-Vatican II employment of popular idioms in the church. It was also an extension of the use of “folk” music by such figures as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to communicate political and social critiques. The step from politically engaged popular music and popular music in the service of official religious ritual to Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar turned out to be rather small.

Keywords:   Mass, Godspell, social criticism, musical theater

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