The Audience as Congregation

W. Anthony Sheppard

in Revealing Masks

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520223028
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924741 | DOI:
The Audience as Congregation

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With the creation of new forms of ritual music theater in twentieth-century Europe and America came a radical reconceptualization of the audience's role and of the performance space itself. A basic trend toward increased audience participation, and away from the notion of performance as commercialized entertainment, reached one extreme in the “happenings” of the 1950s and '60s. These events were based on the premise that everyone present was a participant and that all sound and movement within the performance space constituted the performance. Occasions during which some Euro-American audience members would be accustomed to participate significantly include the religious services of Christianity. In the Catholic Mass, for example, there is a clearly defined audience/congregation and performer/celebrant space. Benjamin Britten is the most prominent twentieth-century composer to have created works of music theater specifically intended to be performed in church.

Keywords: ritual music theater; audience participation; performance; Christianity; religious services; Benjamin Britten

Chapter.  3419 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Applied Music

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