The Deacon's Bench

Personally, I’d love to hear this for myself:

edward-james-richard-portrait.pngThere was some Catholic toe tapping to the strains of banjo and fiddle as the first ever “Bluegrass Mass” was celebrated in September exactly where it belonged: the “birthplace of country music,” Bristol, Virginia. 

The unique Mass at St. Anne’s Catholic Church was held on the weekend of Bristol’s annual Rhythm and Roots festival, September 19-20. It was the brainchild of pastor Father Timothy Keeney and the work of another priest — and Bluegrass musician — Father Edward Richard. 

Father Richard, a professor and vice rector of Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, brought a small ensemble of Bluegrass musicians from Louisiana and Kentucky to help him lead worship through the music he composed, at Father Keeney’s request, especially for this “Saint Anne Rhythm and Roots Heritage Mass.” 

Parishioners had practiced the Bluegrass-style Mass parts for several weeks so by the time they arrived at church, they were excited about this worship “first” in the familiar musical genre born and bred here in their Appalachian Mountains. 

Bristol, which straddles the state border with Tennessee, was the site of the “1927 Bristol Sessions,” a recording session that launched the careers of the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers. It is considered by music historians to be the “big bang” of the commercial country music industry — hence the “birthplace” designation. 

Father Keeney, pastor of St. Anne’s for eight years, said the Bluegrass Mass was something he’d wanted to do since he first arrived in Bristol. 

“This form of music is an integral part of Bristol’s history and culture, and the church should always be a vehicle for dialogue between God and people in every age and culture,” he said. 

“I’d been looking for a while for someone to write a musical setting for the Mass in the idiom of Bluegrass,” he explained, “but I couldn’t find the right person. There were plenty of people writing Bluegrass music, but not where the music served the liturgy.”

Check out the link for more, including pictures.

And if you visit this website you can hear some of Fr. Richard’s work for yourself. 
You can read more about it here.
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