Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Dave Brubeck, RIP


Dave Brubeck, the great jazz musician and composer, died today. He would have been 92 on Thursday. Brubeck was best known for “Take Five.” Here he is performing it with the Dave Brubeck Quartet in Belgium.

Brubeck was an opponent of racial segregation and his integrated band would not perform in venues that would have required him to have all white members. He was a goodwill ambassador for the United States, performing in cultural exchanges around the world. Brubeck also joined the Catholic Church while composing a Mass, a fact curiously omitted from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries.

To Hope! A Celebration was Brubeck’s first encounter with the Roman Catholic Mass, written at a time when he belonged to no denomination or faith community. It was commissioned by Our Sunday Visitor editor Ed Murray, who wanted a serious piece on the revised Roman ritual, not a pop or jazz Mass, but one that reflected the American Catholic experience.

The writing was to have a profound effect on Brubeck’s life. A short time before its premiere in 1980 a priest asked why there was no Our Father section of the Mass. Brubeck recalls first inquiring, “What’s the Our Father?” (he knew it as The Lord’s Prayer) and saying, “They didn’t ask me to do that.”

He resolved not to make the addition that, in his mind, would wreak havoc with the composition as he had created it. He told the priest, “No, I’m going on vacation and I’ve taken a lot of time from my wife and family. I want to be with them and not worry about music.”

“So the first night we were in the Caribbean, I dreamt the Our Father,” Brubeck says, recalling that he hopped out of bed to write down as much as he could remember from his dream state. At that moment he decided to add that piece to the Mass and to become a Catholic.

He has adamantly asserted for years that he is not a convert, saying to be a convert you needed to be something first. He continues to define himself as being “nothing” before being welcomed into the Church.

He goes now to the source of his inspiration. RIP.

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