Hosting Mass Hysterical, A Comedic Cantata alone in his basement was a strange experience for Colin Mochrie.
“It’s weird to do an improv show where there’s no feedback,” says the Canadian comedy legend, who pre-recorded his contribution to the production. “You have to truly believe that you’re being funny and hoping that you’re not deluding yourself.”
But he’s glad to be involved with the virtual show, which takes a cheeky look at more than 1,000 years of church music. Performers include a Toronto Symphony Orchestra chamber ensemble and four former Second City actors. The event, which will stream online Dec. 15 at 8 p.m EST, is part of the Kingston Road Village Concert Series, an initiative started by Tim Dawson, a member of Kingston Road United in Toronto. Two other Ontario churches, Emmanuel United in Waterloo and St. John’s United in Georgetown and Glen Williams, are also involved.
“I love doing projects where I actually get to learn something,” Mochrie says. “I learned some things about gospels, some things about the composers of the day and the various cheekiness of some of them.
“They managed to get some ribald jokes subtly in some of their music, which I found fascinating.”
Watch a trailer for the performance below
Mass Hysterical is also a fundraiser for the three churches. The United Church’s EDGE Network has provided a repayable grant, Dawson says. The churches hope to repay the money through ticket sales and then any additional funds raised will be split between them. Kingston Road United plans to use their portion for a new roof.
Dawson, who came up with the idea for the event and is producing it, says he was inspired by a previous event series called The Second City Guide to the Symphony, which Mochrie worked on too. Dawson has played double bass in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1980 and is passionate about sharing classical music with others.
Mass Hysterical was originally intended to be an in-person concert with multiple performances. But while the planned April dates did not go ahead, organizers can now reach audiences outside of southern Ontario with the virtual format.
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“I think there’s similarities between some of the orchestras and churches in that we’re both trying to attract young people and new [people],” Dawson says.
“Classical music, it’s my life. It’s something I want to share passionately with everyone, and by using comedy, it’s possible that we can reach out to a wider audience and entertain and inform people at the same time.”
Mochrie, whose wife is a member of a United church, also thinks that the event has the potential to educate people about the denomination.
“I’ve been recruited many times for United Church events. I played the star of Bethlehem more times than I can remember,” he says. “For me, it’s always a good cause. It educates people about something that I think they have a certain idea of what it is and they’re totally wrong. I mean, I found that with the symphony.”
Tickets for “Mass Hysterical, A Comedic Cantata” are available here.
Emma Prestwich is Broadview’s digital editor.
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