Fifty years ago, in the remote Argentinean province of Mendoza, Eduardo's father, Ramón Gutiérrez del Barrio, wrote a Mass. It was premiered in 1954, in Saõ Paulo, Brazil. A tape recording of the performance was sent to the Pope. Pious XII answered the composer through his aide, Monsignor Montini, who later became the beloved and short-lived Pope Paul VI. The letter was framed and still hangs in Don Ramón's studio. Deeply touched by his father's music, young Eduardo vowed to emulate him by also writing a Mass someday. He has done so.
He completed the Kyrie three years ago and asked Dianne Reeves to sing it for a demo. She loved it and encouraged him to continue. In the collaboration that ensued, Eduardo's original idea became something new, the Misa Justa, a work he describes as "a celebration of womanhood." He wove through the traditional structure and narrative of his Mass a solo voice that offers a perspective on Biblical women more attuned, in his view, to the true teaching of the Christian faith on Harmony, Compassion, and Love. Mary and Mary Magdalene, hand in hand, building and enduring with men a common destiny. Eduardo found in Patsy Moore the poet who could forcefully express his profound shift in perception and sensibility.
The musical score and the language chosen for the lyrics follow the two lines of the Misa Justa. Classical music and Latin liturgy on one hand, jazz and English on the other. The old and the new, the prescribed and the improvised, not purposely fused together, but organically entwined, as all human stories tend to be. Including the story of this very Mass that began far away and many years ago.
- Estela Herrera, a former journalist, is a writer and an educator
The composer has provided the following notes about the Misa Justa (2004):
The Mass is a symphonic piece with a large choir and five soloists. Dianne Reeves sings five poems, one for each part of the Mass, while the choir sings the Latin liturgy. The other soloists are Billy Childs on piano, Paul McCandless on oboe, Hubert Laws on flute, and Terence Blanchard on trumpet. There is also a rhythm section of bass and drums. The musical elements are classical (the orchestra) and jazz (the soloists).
The Mass is an homage to womanhood. It recognizes the equality of the sexes while condemning the misogynistic actions of men throughout history. In that sense, this is a Misa Justa, a “Just Mass.” The last part of the Mass, the Agnus Dei, acknowledges the importance of Mary Magdalene as a “partner” of Jesus in the creation of Christianity. She was labeled a “prostitute” only to diminish her influence and relevance. The last part of the Agnus Dei denounces the religions of man, which only serve to separate us from each other.