How did Bernstein complete the work? In a letter dated May 25, 1971 — just over three months before the September premier—Bernstein wrote poignantly on the problem of how to pass “from this howling anger to the serenity of Communion, that is to say the end? He judged the “No easy job” dilemma. He then referred to some sort of exchange with the Jesuit “Father Dan” Berrigan (who was in prison for his participation in the 1968 Catonsville Nine action): “Father Dan said today: Leave them with the militant mood. Shout at them and turn off the lights. They don’t deserve fellowship. Quote: ‘When they stop the war, then we can commune.’ How’s that for a flamboyant finish? However, Berrigan’s suggestion did not match Bernstein’s personal view, who felt “a little sickly.” “I know there is a glorious solution,” he concluded. “I pray we find him.”
Trope 5: Youth / Re-Found
Bernstein’s prayer was answered when he found this solution by going back to his roots. Just as praise has the last word in the language of lamentation and Kaddish, so the youth lost in MASS gradually found like the soprano boy riffs in tandem with the haunting flute, “Iauda, laude, laudate deum. “(Several years earlier, in the 1965 Chichester Psalms, Bernstein had used this same device with a rising soprano voice to introduce calm after “a happy noise”.) The youngster’s repeated riffs on “praise” one by one rejuvenate his elders (a hint of Mahler’s Second Symphony “Resurrection”) and end up producing a glorious chorus. Although the play openly recalls the initial “Simple Song” with which the celebrant began MASS, it is now reduced to only speech sounds: Iauda, laude, laudate eum– praise (singular imperative), praise (noun), praise (plural imperative) him. (Does Berstein implicitly evoke the 1955-56 story of Karlheinz Stockhausen Song from Youth?) To say anything beyond that, beyond “praise”, would be shamelessness – literally, to say too much.
This latter modesty evokes deep continuities in Bernstein’s vision – for example, the exhilarating concluding chorus in Candid (1956). After a disturbing and tragic journey, Candide and his companions finally see unveiled the arrogant epistemological claims of Dr Pangloss according to which it is the “best of all possible worlds”. The response to this revelation is an injunction to replace presumptuous speculation with humble manual labor: “Grow our gardens. “A decade later, Bernstein concluded his Chichester Psalms (1965) with a similar statement of epistemological modesty, the radical humility and dependence of a child described in Psalm 131 (130): Adonai, / Lo gavah libi (Lord, / My heart is not haughty). While Moynihan had lamented that “we will never be young again”, Bernstein celebrates the youth found. But note that this is a different youth, a youth tempered by the experience of doubt, disillusionment, rage and death. It is perhaps the naivety rediscovered, but it is nevertheless a clearly secondary naivety which has been altered by the critical distance. Although the world is coming back, it is not the same world.
Bernstein arrives at the praise coming from the rejuvenation. Conclude the Kaddish symphony, the President exults:
O my Father, Lord of Light!
Beloved Majesty: my Image, my Self!
We are one, after all, you and me:
Together we suffer, together we exist,
And forever recreate each other.
Recreate yourself, recreate each other!
Suffer and recreate each other!
Make us, Lord our God, retire for the evening in peace
and then rise to life again, O our King,
and spread over us Your canopy of peace. . .
Be a shield around us.
Remove all enemies from among us,
plague, sword, violence, famine, hunger and sorrow
… spread over us
the protective canopy of your peace.
Almighty Father, incline your ear:
Bless us and all who have gathered here—
Your angel sends us,
Who will defend us all;
And filled with grace
Everyone who lives in this place. Amen.
Mass is over.
Go in peace.