Guest Composer and Conductor Robert Ray to Lead University Choir in his ‘Gospel Mass’


Choral Union Joining Choir on Patriotic Selections from 2013 National Memorial Day Choral Festival in Washington, D.C.

by News Bureau on Tuesday, Apr. 09, 2013

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 9, 2013 – Guest Composer and Conductor, Robert Ray, will lead the University Choir in his ‘Gospel Mass’ with the Choral Union joining them on additional patriotic selections from the 2013 National Memorial Day Choral Festival in Washington, D.C. at 7:30 p.m. April 23 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast’s River Campus.”

In connection with the event, Ray will be at Southeast to work with the University Choir for a two-day residency. He also will conduct the University Choir in the concert performance. Ray’s “Gospel Mass,” sets the words from the Catholic Mass to the rhythm and harmony of African-American music. A composer and music educator as well as a conductor, Ray is a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in music and piano performance.

The University Choir will perform “Gospel Mass,” which includes “KyrieᾰLord Have Mercy,” “GloriaᾰGlory To God in the Highest,” “CredoᾰI Believe in God,” “AcclamationᾰHalleluyah Praise the Lord,” “SanctusᾰHoly, Holy Lord God of Hosts” and “Agnus DeiᾰLamb of God.”

Ray’s “Gospel Mass,” composed in 1978, was premiered at the University of Illinois and performed by the University’s Black Chorus. This work was written while Ray was a liturgy team leader for the National Office of Black Catholics. The “Gospel Mass” was created out of a need from these workshops.

The “Gospel Mass” has become a standard part of the choral repertoire and is performed by churches, colleges, universities, orchestras and civic choral groups nationally and internationally.

The Mass is Ray’s interpretation of 2,000 years of liturgical tradition with the more contemporary music of the African-American Church. For centuries, composers have taken the text of the Ordinary of the Mass and given them musical settings. Each setting creates within the listener a different feeling about the worship experience.

Ray states, “It is my desire to combine centuries of old traditions of Mass settings with sounds of the contemporary Black Church. The move from Latin to English created new opportunities for composers to express their feelings about the texts of the Ordinary of the Mass. I wanted everyone to experience the sense of joy and celebration that is generally felt in true African-American worship.”

The Choral Union and University Choir will perform “The National Anthem” arranged by Robert Russell Bennett, “The Pledge of Allegiance” by Charles Osgood, “God of our fathers, whose almighty hand” arranged by Mack Wilberg, “Deep River” arranged by Robert DeCormier and Eddie Sauter, “Who are the Brave?” by J. Paul Williams and Joseph M. Martin, “Gettysburg” by Peter J. Durow, “Proud to Serve” arranged by Michael Davis, “America the Beautiful” arranged by Carmen Dragon, “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” arranged by Peter J. Wilhousky.

The patriotic repertoire on the second half of the concert program was selected by Dr. Craig Jessop for the National Memorial Day Choral Festival in Washington, D.C. Jessop is the former director of the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and current Dean of the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

The Southeast Missouri State University Choir and Choral Union were invited to participate in the National Memorial Day Choral Festival, and a group of 24 will travel to Washington, D.C., in May to sing this concert program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the United States Air Force Orchestra under the direction of Craig Jessop.

The University Choir is the premiere vocal ensemble at Southeast; the Choral Union is Southeast’s largest choir open to all students and members of the community.


Tickets may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling (573) 651–2265. Tickets may also be purchased online at