The great American jazzman Dave Brubeck has died a day short of his ninety-second birthday. Many may not know that Brubeck was a Catholic convert who actually composed a Mass even before he became a Catholic. The Mass had been commissioned by Ed Murray, editor of Our Sunday Visitor. From PBS, here is the story of that Mass and a bit about his conversion:
One of Dave’s major religious compositions is the mass To Hope! A Celebration. When Brubeck finished the piece, he was proud to play it for various religious officials. But a priest told him he had left the Our Father out of the mass, after the premiere.
‘He was very disappointed,’ Dave explained. ‘He said ‘I loved your mass, but you left out the Our Father.’ I said, ‘What’s the Our Father?’ because that doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not a Catholic. And he said, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven.’ And I said, ‘that’s The Lord’s Prayer.’ And the priest said ‘Well, in Catholicism, we call it the Our Father. So I said, ‘Well, nobody told me to write it, so I didn’t write it. I’m finished with The Mass, I’m going to the Bahamas with my family, and I’m going to take a vacation. I’ve been working very hard.’ So I get down there, and what happens? I dream the Our Father because a priest tells me I left it out. So I jump up in the middle of the night, and write it all down. And now it’s in The Mass. ‘
The event didn’t just revolutionize the piece; it changed Brubeck’s life. ‘ I joined the Catholic Church, because I felt, somebody’s trying to tell me something,’ he realized. ‘Now, people say I converted. I didn’t convert to Catholicism, because I wasn’t anything to convert from. I just joined the CatholicChurch.’
In 2006, Notre Dame awarded Brubeck the Laetare Medal. For the graduating class, he performed “Travellin’ Blues.”
Above is Brubeck performing his Mass To Hope: A Celebration at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.