The Liverpool Mass

The Liverpool Mass

By Pierre Henry
Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King
13th May 2017

Reviewed by John Owen

Like being born after gestating in the Dalek (Paddy’s Wigwam) aka the Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral, I came out confused and blinded by the light, an epiphany of sorts, then steps from heaven home. Amen.

It was a traditional catholic mass composed of six movements Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus and Dei, performed by Thierry Balasse to great effect. Preceding the piece was a performance titled ‘HAPAX III (A Liverpool Requiem) by Paris-based contemporary electronic sound designers Vincent Epplay and Samon Takahashi.

The stage was set as collaborators of Pierre, now in his 90s, whose original composition staged for the opening of the cathedral back in 1967, failed to launch, had blessed Thierry Balasse to work magic on this, its 50th anniversary, tying in with 300 years of the Bluecoat.

All of them musique concrete pioneers krautrock influenced and generally influential with the likes of Fat Boy Slim amongst others.

Bill Harpe, from the Black-E and Jarvis Cocker, Pulp front man, who lives in Paris near Pierre, gave speeches in the intermission, which was needed.

The 45 minute sections with seven seconds sound delay due to the acoustics and forty speakers gave the concert a cinema sensurround feel.

As for the sounds sculpted by the designers; Liverpool’s Anfield Kop and Vietnam War, could be heard as well as massive creaking opening doors effects. You felt the notes almost physically. I could believe I was in a spaceship and “fuzzy mysticism” experience took over me.

The radicalism of it could only be attributed to the spirit of the sixties, to paraphrase Bill Harpe’s speech, anything was possible. The light of a pale subdued blue and the circular depth gave sufficient ambience to the soaring burst that made some laugh, others fret, panic or cry haunting liturgical dirges reminded me of the Omen film soundtrack.

The clergy spokesman asked us, atheistic crisp eating sinners on the wooden benches, plaintively at the beginning ceremony, “how long does a man die for? how long does he live?”

Peeping out my blind side, for Gregory Peck seven sacrificial daggers in tow, nothing moved, nothing happened! just soundwaves or a cacophony of demonic and unholy sounds in the digital prayer age we live in.

To the musicians present they may have caught the B flat note out on the third movement. Joking aside, it was experimental and fresh and, to their credit, they took the audience on a journey of self-reflection. All our worries drifted skyward and solitary musing of mortality, fate and the five decades of relative peace we’ve had, unlike our parents and grandparents.

God’s voice squelched and looped, fedback through a Casio synthesizer or early Moog organ. The second half less Hendrix riff-like, as my ears had attuned to the subtleties and nuances of the soundscape.

Letting myself go I could feel I was being transported to Heaven, Hell or Garston?

Apparently a band with the cool name of Spooky Tooth played as substitutes in 1967.

Check it out, it goes on line soon, the live recording as a free gift to Liverpool.

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