Django's Mass

HereticHeretic In the Pond✭✭✭
edited January 2007 in History Posts: 230
From time to time I've read that Django had been working on music for a Mass. Since this art form has often brought out sublime compositions from noted artists, it is only natural to speculate what Django might have done.

Is there anything known of this work, or any history of reports of this missing Django work? It sounds like the basis for a great mystery script doesn't it?


  • sockeyesockeye Philadelphie sur SchuylkillNew
    Posts: 415
    Also on this set:

    gipsy_school.jpeg ... chool.html

    (Michael, I think your posted track list for this CD is incomplete -- "Messe" is the last track on disc 1.)
  • Posts: 597
    I bit confused by this thread. Django composed an entire Mass, right? As in Catholic Mass with an Introit, Kryie, Gloria, etc? Or just a tune called "Messe"?

    While we're on the subject, are there gypsy settings of Catholic Masses? I know that there are flamenco ones a la Paco Pena.
  • Posts: 145
    If I remember correctly, the mass was never complete, but they recorded it anyways.
  • HereticHeretic In the Pond✭✭✭
    Posts: 230
    I'm greatly confused by these various postings.

    In Michael Dregni's, Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz, page 101, Dregni writes:
    "During the war years, Django began work on a new dream: An organ mass devoted to his fellow Romanies to be performed annually at the Gypsy pilgrimage to Camargue ville of Les Saintes-Marie-de-la- Mer and the Gypsies' adopted Saint Sarah....Alas, due to the difficulties of composition, Django never finished the project, although his work-in-progress would be played for radio broadcast in 1944."

    A Mass would have the various parts that Stackabones lists, and would be about 45 minutes long. Was some part of the Mass actually recorded?
  • sockeyesockeye Philadelphie sur SchuylkillNew
    Posts: 415
    The recording on the "Gipsy Jazz School" set is a 1944 organ performance by Léo Chauliac of the unfinished "Messe" -- it's around 8 minutes long. I assume the one on the "Integrale" set is the same recording...but I don't have that set & can't say for sure.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 658
    Who can say how much Django knew about things like introit and kyrie - probably not much. Knowing what we do about his general personality, he might have set out to write a mass without even being aware of these technical requirements. Not that he would have had a problem with these requirements. He also wrote (by dictation to Gerard Leveque) an entire symphony. The score still exists - I have seen it and heard a five or six minute excerpt played on a synthesizer. It's a very unique piece of music. The person who has the score has been diligently working on it for the last several years, trying to get it in shape. The last I heard, he had it ready and was looking for funding and a sympathetic conductor - to execute a full symphonic performance. Which would truly be something to experience...

    Back to the mass, here is Lauren Oliver's transcript of the interview from the radio broadcast:


    VO: In the Chapel of the National Institute for Blind Children, Django Reinhardt will, for the first time, hear his mass played on the organ, which he has written especially for the gypsies. (Organ begins to play)


    Announcer: Could you tell me Mr Reinhardt, what has compelled you to write this mass?
    DR: All the gypsies in the entire world have made use of foreign masses for many centuries. I have written this mass to be interpreted by choir and organ.
    A: And in what surroundings do you isolate yourself in order to write - it's not a question of surroundings. For you certainly cannot do it after a jazz concert?
    DR: I prefer to write in the evening very late or in the morning in my bed.
    A: And did you notate the music?
    DR: No, it's not I who notates the music. It's my clarinetist in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Gerard Leveque. I dictate it to him.
    A: And is today the first recital of your mass?
    DR: It is an extract of my mass. I particularily don't know the ending. It's the first time I have heard the composition on the organ.
    A: Certainly you know, Mr Reinhardt, that in the world and particularily in France, it is said that you are the king of the gypsies. Is that accurate?
    DR: No, no, no, don't think that. But it might come to pass, perhaps one day. I am very loved by them, and I thank them by offering to them this mass. (Organ continues to play)

    The mass is quite beautiful and dignified. Maybe this will clear up some questions.
  • Posts: 597
    Thanks, scot, for the interview posting and clarifications.

    You say that Django may not have known the technical features of the Mass. Do you think it's possible that having lived (or at least worked) in a largely Catholic culture, he would have actually known the Mass parts, even though he was a gypsy? I know that nowadays Catholic culture maybe a bit of mystery to most folks, but before WWII wasn't it more mainstream?
  • François RAVEZFrançois RAVEZ FranceProdigy
    Posts: 294
    Here is an excerpt of an interview of Alf Totol Masselier :

    "- Was Django a believer?"
    "- Yes, but he would not go often to the mass. I remember of a story. On the train going to Rome there were 6 seats by compartment. The Quintet du Hot Clubs comes and sits and the sixth person was a cassocked priest who was going to Rome for the Holy Year. Django seized the opportunity to ask him which were the figures used for writing a mass. The priest explained him. And Django listened very carefully. And he did eventually write a mass. It's Léo Chauliac who transcribed it, because Django was writing music only with his guitar"
    In Jazz Hot n°600 (may 2003).


    François RAVEZ
  • Posts: 597
    François, thanks for the excerpt. Very illuminating.
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