The following are extracts taken from the original brochure announcing the programme as a whole.

Christian art and architecture have always been expressions of Christian belief. The great Gothic cathedrals of Europe reflect the theology and spirit of their age, as do the works of the great Christian painters. The churches of the Renaissance reflect another aspect of Christian architecture.

The new Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool is built with the same aim and in the same spirit as these achievements of former centuries. It seeks to express for the modern age what was done by the great architects and artists of the past.

The consecration and opening of the new Cathedral will be accompanied by liturgical ceremonies, which will take place in the Cathedral during the week of May 14 to May 21. It is hoped, however, that the new Cathedral will be seen as an architectural and artistic enrichment to the whole city of Liverpool. The liturgical ceremonies will, therefore, be followed by a musical and artistic programme centred on the Cathedral, of which the outstanding feature will be an entirely original expression of Christian art in a modern form, yet related to the spirit and worship of earlier ages. This work, the Drama of the Mass, will extend the traditional, orchestral and choral Mass – the musical setting of the Mass traditionally used by composers over the centuries – into a portrayal of these prayers, not only in musical but also in visual form.

This brochure gives an introduction to the Drama of the Mass and to the other events which make up the programme of celebrations both in the Cathedral and throughout the City. We hope that the varied programme of music, drama and painting will interest, and bring enjoyment to, people of all denominations.

Opening Celebrations May 18 June 15 1967
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King

Opening Celebrations Committee

ChairmanMost Rev G A Beck AA BA
Archbishop of Liverpool
Vice-ChairmanRight Rev A Harris
Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool
Artistic DirectorBill Harpe

The Drama of the Mass

The Choreographed Mass

New, serious and spectacular – involving a dance company of 36, an orchestra of 50, a choir of 80 and 8 solo singers – the Choreographed Mass is a major production by any theatre standards. This is also, as far as we know, the first time the opening of a cathedral has been celebrated by a theatre production in the cathedral itself.

The Choreographed Mass will be – simply and uniquely – an enrichment and extension of the traditional choral and orchestral Mass (nowadays usually presented in a concert hall) into an expression of the Mass in both visual and musical terms in the church itself.

The prayers of the Mass will be expressed in choreographed images to music; images of worship, suffering, pain, glory and hope, expressed in dances which will be simple, beautiful and modern. The music used will be the very beautiful, and only recently re-discovered, 17th Century Mass by the Italian Francesco Cavalli.

A concert presentation of the Cavalli Mass on its own – for all its beauty – would attract an audience for 1 or 2 performances. This exciting, large-scale, musical and dramatic interpretation of the Cavalli Mass will make an appeal to both an old and a new audience. The performers will be coming together for 8 performances in the Cathedral.

Duration 50 minutes

Orchestra The Northern Sinfonia
Choir Liverpool Welsh Choral Union
Conductor John Carewe.

The Mass of Christ the King

The 20th Century has brought with it the discovery of electronic and concrete music (music composed, in a variety of ways, directly onto recording tape). It is a form of music which we now all (whether we are aware of it or not) hear every day on the radio and television.

The Drama of the Mass programme will be completed by the first ever, specially commissioned, electronic music Mass; ‘The Mass of Christ the King’, by the French composer Pierre Henry. A number of Pierre Henry’s religious works have been performed in churches in Paris, and his works for theatre are performed by Maurice Bejart’s ‘Ballet of the 20th Century’.

This work, ‘The Mass of Christ the King’, will also be interpreted by the dance company.

Duration 20 minutes.

The Dance Company 

Without the American dance discoveries of the 20th Century (still very much unknown in England – but available to us to some degree through works ranging from ‘West Side Story’ to the repertoire of the rarely seen Martha Graham Company) there would be no vocabulary available to us capable of expressing, with drama and economy, the seriousness of the Mass. It would obviously be as much a mistake to try to express the serious matters of the Mass in ‘ballet’ terms as it would be to try to express them in the ‘twist’ or the ‘shake’.

The 36 dancers being specially brought together for The Drama of the Mass programme represent the first company to be founded in this country on the basis of both contemporary dance and basic ballet technique.

The Drama of the Mass programme will be directed and choreographed by Bill Harpe.

Evenings 8 pm
Dates May 26 – June 3
(no performance Sunday May 28)

Staging and Seating for the Drama of the Mass

The Cathedral and the Drama of the Mass

With the Opening of the Cathedral in May 1967 Liverpool will possess one of the world’s most modern – and beautiful – Cathedrals.

The Building itself is a complete circle. Around the circumference are the chapels, each with its own individual design. At the very centre of the Cathedral is the high altar, and over this – supported by the conical structure of the Cathedral itself – is the magnificent lantern of stained glass through which light diffuses into the Cathedral.

It is the circularity of the Cathedral – basically chosen so as to associate the congregation more closely with the celebration of the Mass – which gives dimension to the (non-liturgical) concept of the Choreographed Mass. The emotions of pity, suffering, joy, move naturally into circular expression around a central point. The altar will become the visual and spiritual focus at the very heart of the Choreographed Mass. In fact, in spite of being a theatrical work of quite spectacular proportions, the Choreographed Mass makes no attempt to convert the Cathedral into a theatre. It is a work which would be incapable of proper performance anywhere other than in a circular (or near circular) church. It is a work which is germane to the very basis of Mr. Gibberd’s designs for the Cathedral.