By Tom Quiner
The year was 1979.
The newly elected Pope, John Paul II, was en route to America.
He would even come to Iowa.
Along the way, he was going to hear a newly composed Mass by jazz great, Dave Brubeck. Mr. Brubeck had been commissioned to compose the new work by Our Sunday Visitor in honor of the Pontiff.
Originally, Brubeck took a pass on the project. He wasn’t Catholic. He didn’t know anything about Catholic Mass.
For that matter, Bach wasn’t Catholic. Neither was Bernstein. Beethoven was certainly no orthodox Catholic.
Many great composers wrote Catholic music who weren’t Catholic. (For the record, I detest 90% of Bernstein’s Mass, but that’s a story for another day.)
Brubeck relented. He wrote the work.
Upon hearing it performed, a priest approached Brubeck and told him how much he enjoyed the work, but asked why he didn’t include the “Our Father.”
“What’s the Our Father?” Brubeck asked. “I’ve completed the Mass and I did everything they asked me to do and they did not ask me to do the Our Father.”
And he had no intention of doing so, until he had a dream.
While on vacation, a dream came to the jazz legend on how to compose the Our Father.
He did, and evidently inspired, he joined the Church:
“The whole exercise of writing the Mass, you have to really delve into a lot of Catholicism, and I think dreaming the Our Father really kicked it into high gear that maybe this is the direction I should be going in. I never had wanted to belong to any church, but this has been a good experience for me.”
Delving into Catholicism is a dangerous thing, because it so seductive, so beautiful, and so True. At least that has been my experience. The richness of this religion is startling. It has something for everyone, as Dave Brubeck found out.
The great Dave Brubeck died this week. I’d love to hear his Mass in heaven. Together, we can imagine what it is like by listening to an excerpt from an “earthly” recording of his Mass, “To Hope.” Above is the “Alleluia” movement.
If you don’t leap out of your seat and shout “alleluia” to God after listening to these 8 minutes of jubilation, then take your pulse.
You may already be dead!