Sunday, May 15, 2011


Cape Cod is often said to be one of the world's most beautiful places. It also has The Outer Cape Chorale. Today it performed Leonard Bernstein's intricate "Mass". The performance was beyond fabulous.

Leonard Bernstein
Jon Arterton, the conductor, always gives a little background about the pieces his group performs. Today he mentioned that "Mass" had been commissioned for the opening of the Kennedy Center Opera House, and premiered on September 8, 1971. It was generally expected that the President would attend the opening of this "cultural palace on the Potomac". Below I paraphrase and expand a bit on Arterton's comments.

When Nixon's Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, first mentioned that it would be Bernstein's "Mass" that would be performed, Nixon said, "Oh, shit." (It's on tape!) Bernstein had done plenty to earn a place on Nixon's famous "enemies list" -- among other things, he supported the Black Panthers; he was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War; and he had associated with the radical anti-war priests, brothers Phillip and Daniel Berrigan.

Haldeman suggested that Nixon should not attend "Mass" but instead mark the opening of The Kennedy Center by going to The National Symphony's debut the following night for a performance of a program under the direction of its music director, Antal Dorati. This Nixon did.

Jon Arterton
On the day after "Mass" Haldeman reported "absolutely sickening" conduct on Bernstein's part ... the composer, Haldeman said, had shed tears during the ovation, had hugged some members of the cast, bestowed kisses on some, even on some men, "including [a] big black guy!"  This big black guy happened to be Alvin Ailey, the founder of the world-esteemed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Ah, beloved radicalism! Thanks Jon Arterton. Thanks Leonard Bernstein. Thanks Richard Nixon for tape-recording your howlers. I had a great day.

1 comment:

  1. So many quotes, so little time;-)

    Nixon claimed he didn't attend because it was Jackie Kennedy's night...garbage Richard...there was much much much more to it than that..the FBI told The White House the text of the Mass might contain an anti-war message..

    Ah, dear old Haldeman..those times!!!

    I love sharing a birthday with Leonard...the birthday book says we're flamboyant, energetic, and sexual...don't mind those strengths!!!

    Such energy in the Jon Arterton photo..