McDermot's Mass in F Joins Hair At Cathedral
by Donal Henahan
The New York Times - May 10, 1971

The program given out at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine yesterday afternoon, printed by Playbill, announced on it's cover: Hair Birthday Celebration.  Under that, in appropriately smaller and lighter type came: Galt MacDermot's Mass in F.  In what must certainly be the publicity coup of the year, the producers of the musical arranged to mark the third anniversary of the Broadway opening in a ceremony at the cathedral, at the invitation of the church authorities.  The Broadway opening, you will note, not the original, less commercial Public Theater one.

With Mr. MacDermot, who composed the score for Hair, at the electric piano, his five-number Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus, Lord's Prayer, and Agnus Dei) was sung.  Hits from hair itself were interspersed through the ceremony.  At the introit there was "Aquarius", for instance, and at the Offertory a medley that included the title song.

Performers included the Hair cast and the cathedral choir.  Nicholas Johnson, the Federal Communications Commission member, and Dr. Harvey Cox of the Harvard Divinity School talked, and gave testimony to the efficacy of Hair.  Balloons imprinted with the slogan "God Id Love" floated at the cathedral's entrances.

The overflow audience or congregation - nicely dressed, well mannered, and almost solidly white - listened to Mr. MacDermot's ecclesiastical music with as much interest as to the Hair numbers.  And, in fact, there was not a great deal of difference between the two.

It would be no surprise to hear that his Kyrie, which sounded vaguely like "Eleanor Rigby", had broken out as a hit single.  Like the great masters of the past, Mr. MacDermot writes in a homogeneous style, with only the vaguest division between secular and sacred.

Musical coordinator for the entire celebration was Fred Waring, Jr.

Early in the program a man who described himself as a music lover, Richard Adams Whipple, 38 years old, of Jersey City, climbed a 100 foot scaffold "just to see the show."

When he dropped pebbles on some people sitting on a raised platform, security guards moved those in the section forward and called for the police to remove the man.  Patrolmen James Gallagher and Edward Yano of the Emergency Squad took 20 minutes to reach Mr. Whipple and take him down.

Few in the audience of 4000 realized what had happened.  Mr. Whipple shouted "They just took me down off the cross.  Don't murder me again."

Copyright The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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