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Bluegrass Mass at Presbyterian Church

Members of the Chancel Choir, under the direction of Paul Sanner of the Presbyterian Church in Westfield (PCW), rehearse "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" by Carol Barnett. Credits: SM Dougherty

“It’s just what we need right now,” said Paul Sanner, the Music Director at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield (PCW) about the upcoming musical presentation, “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.” On Sunday, Oct. 29, at noon, the Chancel Choir will blend their voices at the historical sanctuary located at 140 Mountain Avenue at East Broad Street.

“The Mass of old texts coupled with new multiple-part choral writing is refreshing. That, combined in new ways with surprising instrumentation, will be inspiring for our congregation and the community at large,” Mr. Sanner explained.

Professional guest instrumentalists on banjo, mandolin, string bass, fiddle, guitar and piano will provide the unique accompaniment to the piece that uses the structure a traditional Mass.

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Penned by Carol Barnett, and premiered in 2007, in her own words, she says its purpose is “to bring the solemnity of the classical-based Mass together with the down-home sparkle of bluegrass.” He saw it performed at the Berkshire Choral Festival in 2011. “I kind of filed it away but knew that one day I would like to have a choir present it,” he said.  

The church’s organist/music director, who has been with the Presbyterian Church in Westfield for almost a year, thinks of the work as a beautiful tapestry. “In this 40 - minute musical offering, we know there will be something to elevate each of us – musicians and audience alike,” Mr. Sanner said.

The October 29 free concert is open to the public and will only be a portion of the special day, Reformation Sunday. Wired4Worship, the church’s contemporary service held in the church’s Westminster Hall, will celebrate its 4th anniversary that day. After the 10 a.m. service, the entire church is invited to have light refreshments from 11:15 – 11:45 a.m. and then assemble in the Sanctuary to hear, “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.”

For more information about the upcoming event or the church in general, call 908-233-0301 or go online to their website at

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