January 9, 2015
Massa Deux is an expanded and matured adaptation of Ben Kyle’s original alt-country Mass. Taken right out of Ben playbook, it combines moody country grooves, soulful harmonies, and fantastic melodies. This liturgy is performed by Jimmy Osterholt of The Small Cities and Gospel Machine, Jayanthi Kyle of Black Audience and Gospel Machine, and Marty Marty of Crazy Chester. Massa Deux usually returns to Mercy Seat each December for the season of Advent, and occasionally throughout the year.
Ben put down some solo demos for us, and they capture the mood of the pieces perfectly.
September 23, 2014
Two or More Mass is the work of Tangled Blue, which consists of Joel and Aimee Pakan. Joel and Aimee have traveled the world with their music and are finally bringing it home to Mercy Seat in a liturgical setting. They named it “Two or More” as a reflection of the woven harmonies throughout all of the songs.
Joel and Aimee Pakan have attended Mercy Seat for years as musicians who go to church. Finally, we’re getting them to bring their music to the church through their group Tangled Blue. From their website: Tangled Blue began in the winter of 1995 when the duo first met, but they didn’t realize it until five years later. In the summer of 2000, Aimée (vocals, percussion) and Joel (vocals, guitar) performed together for the first time. In September of 2001 Aimée and Joel were married and would soon start performing together as Tangled Blue. Their first recording was completed in early 2003. Recorded at a farm house in Menomonie, Wisconsin, it is a caffeinated folk-rock blend of songs that have shown their durability as the duo traveled with them over 500,000 miles of U.S. highways. In 2005 Aimée and Joel relocated to Texas and in early 2007 left for an extended tour that has taken them from Texas to Hawaii to Florida to the Dakotas and everywhere in between. With a new residence in Minneapolis Minnesota, Tangled Blue completed a recording based on the season of Advent in 2008 and a Christmas recording in 2011.
August 20, 2013
Scott Randall Munson is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Scott engineers and produces commercial, film, and independent music out of his own Blacktop Studio. He is a member of the indie rock outfit The Small Cities, helps make soul music as part of Gospel Machine, and plays shows under his own name as well.
Mercy Seat gave Scott his first composing commission back in 2008 resulting in the spiritual-inspired The Good News Bad News Mass. Scott continued composing for Mercy Seat and debuted his cinematic, layered The Sacraments Mass in 2009. His third mass, the spare Middle America Mass, debuted in 2011 and evolved to its finished form in 2012.
To find out more about Scott’s work visit www.scottrandallmunson.com
You can preview The Good News Bad News Mass:
The Sacraments Mass:
The Middle America Mass:
May 31, 2013
Brian DeRemer debuted his liturgy Letters From Earth in June, 2013. Below he talks a bit about his thoughts on the ideas behind the liturgy.
Brian DeRemer’s baritone haunts “Dusty Songs for Children of the Modern Age.” He released Dusty Songs in 2012 and he debuted his liturgy, Letters from Earth, for Mercy Seat in June of 2013.
February 24, 2013
Grant Cutler debuted his Stardust Mass in March 2013. Its beauty comes from its pop-simplicity, a mix of introspective Bowie and Magnetic Fields. You can listen to the tracks below.
February 15, 2013
Grant Cutler is a songwriter, producer and composer whose prolific catalogue–raw in humanness and polished in electronic components–exhibits balance and experimentalism.
Since relocating from South Dakota to Minneapolis in 2001, Cutler has headlined the landmark venue First Avenue and performed at dozens of other local venues, including the Walker Art Center. As songwriter and frontman of bands Lookbook (City Pages’ Best New Band 2009) and Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords (First Avenue’s Best New Bands 2010) he played multiple national tours, SXSW, and CMJ. Cutler composed the score for feature film Stuck Between Stations, an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival (2011), and for modern dance piece He & Him/She & Her (2012). His nuanced production is heard in collaborations with Jeremy Messersmith and Dave King, and on Zoo Animal’s widely acclaimed release Departure (2012). In 2011 Innova released Cutler’s atmospheric 2012, an LP featuring analog recording and tape manipulation.
This year, the Minnesota State Arts Board commissioned from Cutler a three-part composition for vocals and electro-acoustic instrumentation, which will premier this winter at the Cedar Cultural Center. Other current ventures include a two-piece performance project with vocals by Aby Wolf, commercial compositions, and exploring audience-triggered generative sound and visuals.
January 31, 2013
Greg Schaefer’s Hamburg Mass debuted in February 2013. In his own words:
Dedicated to my father William H. Schaefer (1924-1991) born in Hamburg, MN. As the years have passed I have realized that he was the source of my creativity and love of music. Hamburg is memory in my past, but profoundly effects who I am today.
My father was a creative thinker who was both plain spoken and complex. So instead of solely relying on the standard liturgical lyrics as I have done in the past, with Hamburg I wrote my own. The lyrics are intentionally simple to foster contemplation, the melody’s are intentionally easy to enable participation, but the chords moving underneath have complexity.
The liturgy can be performed with instrumentation as simple as voice / guitar or any size ensemble.
December 30, 2012
In December 2012, Linnea Mohn debuted her liturgy, Incandescence Mass. Incandescence takes on the advent season through the contemplation of the coming of Christ and, oddly enough, science. Her song of praise, “Filament,” celebrates the “marvelous creation” of our bodies “made of nerves bundled threads from toe to head the length of galaxies.”
Listen to a recording of the mass below.
Linnea Mohn has been a part of many Mercy Liturgies in the past, but recently made her debut as a liturgist herself. Her vocals seem familiar, because you might have heard her singing with Rogue Valley, or A. Wolf and Her Claws, or Doomtree, or Coach Said Not To or one of the other 18 million bands she’s played with over the years.
In December 2012, she debuted her Incandescence Mass.
July 15, 2012
Dani & Angie make up the band The Chord & the Fawn. That is, they did until the band grew from dueling ukeleles to a 7 piece. The Chord & the Fawn made their name with the ukeleles featured on their record M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I and Dani and Angie return to those ukelele roots for the Songs of David Mass. Dani explains the emphasis on David as a desire to look backward and trace Christ’s roots.
June 27, 2012
In July, Mercy Seat will be debuting a brand new liturgy from brand new liturgists. We are proud to be working with the local band The Chord and the Fawn to bring The Songs of David liturgy to life. The Chord and the Fawn became a local hit with their ukelele branded pop music, but since their debut record “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I” they have morphed into a 7 piece extravaganza. They will be leading this liturgy throughout the month of July and it will be brilliant, pop-y, and beautiful.
Listen to a live recording!
January 18, 2012
Greg Schaefer composed the Thanksgiving Liturgy on banjo the Saturday after the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday. The title is in reference to the holiday but not confined to it, because every day of life can be Thanksgiving. By it’s nature the banjo gives the songs a rootsy feel, but the intention was the punk rock rock style of short concise simple songs.
I’m thrilled to have assembled an all star ensemble for the liturgy’s debut:
Dana Thompson (Minor Planets) – vocals / guitar
Drew Miller (Boiled in Lead, Felonious Bosch) – bass
Grant Johnson (Bitter Spills) – guitar
Greg Schaefer (GST) – banjo
October 28, 2011
Scott debuted this mass in October 2011. In his own words:
The Middle America Mass was composed during a season of recovery from an overseas automobile accident that left me unable to play music or work for a number of months. Mercy Seat kept me afloat during that season, providing for me physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. As I returned to playing music again I wrote this mass for Mercy Seat. The music calls out quietly from the place that we call home – a spare, honest sound in a large, open space.
Listen to recordings of the liturgy below:
June 16, 2011
The City Pages said it best:
[Hansen]’s voice is the hook. Hazy and laced with vintage twang, it almost whispers at the end of some phrases, while contrarily resonating with power and conviction at others. She may be only 23, but there’s an old soul residing beneath that ribcage.
As the front of the Twin Cities minimalist rock band, Zoo Animal, Hansen has received quite a lot of attention in the last few years. Her presence on stage is enthralling, her voice carries shock, and her song-writing is mesmeric. Holly brings her liturgy Resonance to Mercy Seat in July 2011.
In July 2011 Holly Hansen (of Zoo Animal) will debut the meditative and minimal liturgy called Resonance. As Holly describes it,
I’ve really been learning sometimes you have to position yourself so that you resonate with the truth. At first it may not feel natural, but once you allow yourself to relax, your being becomes in sync with the spirit and you find yourself able to move freely in the truth and it doesn’t feel binding. I used very minimal, repetitive notions musically in this liturgy to give the mind room to concentrate on it’s own being and how it is relating to Christ. It is meant to allow the partaker to meditate on the words and how real they are.
Listen to live recordings of the debut:
June 8, 2011
Vox Humana Mass was envisioned as an occasional liturgy by Wes Burdine that would try to incorporate more members of the church community in creating the music for the liturgies. It is an a capella composition with roots in blues (a la Nina Simone), Eastern Orthodox liturgical singing, and traditional ballads.
September 1, 2010
The Reunion Day Mass came from a long-standing desire to pay homage to musicians such as Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. It was an attempt to change up the alt-country moods of some of our liturgies and inject some new melodies into our theological bloodstream at Mercy Seat. Thematically, it takes up the promise of deliverance, especially in the Song of Praise, “All My Friends are Comin’ Back to Jesus” and the cross-lament of the Sanctus, “I Cry, ‘Holy!’. It also includes the song “Reunion Day” that encloses the service parenthetically, promising, “It won’t be long ’til that fine reunion day.” The band is composed of liturgy regulars, Scott Munson and Jayanthi Kyle (of Black Audience), plus Mike Berger (of Cincinnati punk outfits toolshed and The Bushrocks) and Kim Larson.
Take a listen to some live recordings from the debut of the Reunion Day Mass.
March 12, 2010
Chris Koza is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based singer/songwriter, and has released three albums since 2004 — “Exit Pesce,” “Patterns,” and “A Friend of a Friend” (EP). Music critics have compared Chris’ sound to Wilco, Paul Simon, Nick Drake, Beck, and Ryan Adams, among others. He performs live with a band, which includes anywhere from 2-7 members.
Deep into autumn of 2004 Chris released his debut album “Exit Pesce” in an apartment. But it wasn’t until early the following year when a little blurb by Rob van Alstyne of the Pulse Magazine was printed before anyone really took notice of the album, calling Exit Pesce “An under-the-radar-music-stunner-phenomenon”
In April 2006, Chris released “Patterns,” which went on to receive more acclaim, including a Minnesota Music Award for Best Pop Recording (Chris also won the Best Male Vocalist award).
At the end of 2006, Patterns was kindly included in some local best-of lists, coming in at 10 in the Star Tribune’s annual Twin Cities Critics Tally, and at 1 in Chris Riemenschneider’s (Star Tribune Music Critic) top ten local albums list.
In April of 2010, he started his next adventure: transforming the Chris Koza band into Rogue Valley. This magical transformation occurred on the stage of the Historic Fitzgerald Theater.
Listen to an audio preview/interview with Chris:
And now you can hear live recordings of Song of the Earth Mass:
In May 2010, Chris Koza is debuting his Song of the Earth Mass. As Minnesota Monthly described it (in a much appreciated shout-out): “Every Sunday in May, Koza will take over Mercy Seat Lutheran in Northeast Minneapolis as the church’s latest composer-in-residence, reworking the Lutheran liturgy into a folk/pop arrangement he’s calling the “Song of the Earth Mass,” promising ‘occasionally mysterious chord progressions and ever-present vocal harmonies.'” For a preview and an interview with Chris, listen below.
To hear a live recording of Song of the Earth Mass:
Hermanson is a member of the nationally-acclaimed acoustic duo, Storyhill, that sold over 70,000 records independently before releasing a record with celebrated folk label, Red House Records in 2007.
An award-winning producer, John is the creative center of the art rock group, Alva Star, that has had numerous songs featured on MTV, HBO and ABC. Hermanson is also co-songwriter and member of Minneapolis super group, The Hopefuls. His alter ego, John August, has sold over 850,000 CDs in the popular Lifescapes kiosk in Target stores with titles ranging from instrumental guitar to lush strings, electronica to world music.
Listen to an interview with John Hermanson:
Check out some demos of the Is This the Feast of Victory?:
March 10, 2010
Greg has been involved with music his entire life, but never professionally. He played trumpet through high school, guitar in punk bands during the 80’s, and currently lead the jazz quartet GST. His most exciting project is whatever he’s currently working on. When not playing music, he’s a software engineer and lives in Golden Valley with his wonderful family, feeling blessed every day.
Named after my departed Mother who was and is my spiritual mentor.
It was written over a 2 week period in late 2008. I am not a lyricist, so all words are from the traditional liturgy. As a composer I speak in melody and the Agnes liturgy is my voice. Performing it brings me joy and I hope it has a similar effect on the congregation. Agnes can be performed by a single musician or an ensemble.
The Agnes Liturgy is performed with a roving list of musicians that may or may not include: acclaimed jazz vocalist Nancy Harms, Dana Thompson (of Hothead Fiasco and Minor Planets), Hal Longley (of Century Brass and Chooglin’), Bob DeBoer (GST and Chooglin’), Tony Watercott (GST), and Joe Cline (GST).
The Sacraments Mass is a site-specific mass fully scored for six musicians. Instrumentation includes a marching bass drum, violin, effected guitars, designed sounds, church organ, and grand piano. With its enveloping layers of sound this second mass embraces the difficult mysteries of faith and aspires to the sacred in liturgy.
Minnesotan via Belfast, Ben Kyle (whether he likes it or not) is a fixture of the Twin Cities music scene. With his band Romantica, he’s shared the stage with Ryan Adams (including a haunting duet of a Romantica song) and toured the country. Their two records, It’s Your Weakness That I Want and America have been critically acclaimed by the likes of Village Voice and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ben’s Massa liturgy takes his alt-country roots and mines them for an immigrants walk through the traditional Lutheran liturgy.
Wes and Mercy Seat go way back. A native Pennsylvanian, Wes was writing liturgies for Mercy Seat even when he had to travel out on weekends to play them at church. Thankfully now he lives in Northeast Minneapolis and works as Mercy Seat’s Liturgical Coordinator. In 2004, he released the album “This is How I Discovered Gold,” which was a lo-fi jaunt through alt-country and rock ‘n’ roll that David de Young of howwastheshow.com called full of “well-crafted, thought-provoking songs.” He followed this up by forming a band (Wes Burdine & the Librarians) and releasing the pop music fueled “Jose Canseco EP.” Rob van Alstyne of The Pulse called it, “It’s the sunny pop music day that follows This Is How I Discovered Gold’s long and tormented night.”
Now, Wes is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota and continues to write liturgies for Mercy Seat as well as playing with the Twin Cities rock outfit, The Small Cities. He also released the best children’s album of all time, recorded for his niece Katie for Christmas of 2009, called Unicorn Rock! (follow the link to download it for free).
For more of his music, you can go to his website.
I wrote the Brandywine Mass in the Summer of 2009 as a liturgy for lost friends, family, and lovers. The name comes from the river running through Eastern Pennsylvania where I lived for some time and where one can find the Brandywine Art Museum, where one can find some of my favorite art by my favorite artist, Andrew Wyeth. The liturgy opens with an Introit that invokes our lost loves and asks, “Will we see our sisters there? Our brothers there? Our lovers there?” The rest of the liturgy follows this mood and sets the stage for a service asking for mercy and imagining a resurrection with choirs singing, “Hallelujah.” This liturgy is performed with Linnea Mohn of Rogue Valley and The Alpha Centauri.
You can listen to some live recordings of the Brandywine Mass below.
March 9, 2010
With The Good News Bad News Mass I sought to incorporate the passion of the Negro spirituals that I love into the sonic context of a western high-church setting, with its enormous acoustic space, refined grand piano, and explosive church organ. The resulting songs have a bit of ache and a bit of old time gospel to them.
March 4, 2010
One of Mercy Seat’s first adventures into pop liturgies, Massa is an alt-country take on the Lutheran Mass. Taken right out of Ben Kyle’s playbook, it combines a soaring pedal steel, soulful harmonies, and fantastic melodies. This liturgy is performed by James Orvis and “Lucky” Luke Jacobs of Romantica, Jimmy Osterholt of The Small Cities, Jayanthi Kyle of Black Audience, and Marty Martinson of the Martinson Family Singers.
Debuted during Lent of 2007, Mass for the End of the World is pop music for the resurrection. It was written to transition from the mediation on morbidity of the Lenten season to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. It opens with the Biblical paraphrase in the Antiphon: “Oh Lord reveal my end so I may measure out my days and pull my string taut so I see how fragile it may be” and closes with the 60s inspired: “Gimme the End of the World.” In writing the liturgy, I wanted to celebrate the idea of apocalypse and the end of the world as a daily invocation of the resurrection and rebirth. The liturgy is typically performed by Jimmy Osterholt, David Osborn, and Leif Bjornson of The Small Cities, Linnea Mohn of Rogue Valley and The Alpha Centauri, and Charissa Osborn, formerly of Wes Burdine & the Librarians.
April 1, 2008
As part of Mercy Seat’s mission to rethink the Lutheran Church, we believe that the Church’s long liturgical tradition is a way in which we–as just one community–fit into two thousand years of worshiping Christ and celebrating redemption. We also have committed to taking that tradition into our lives and living inside it. For this reason, we commission musicians to set the liturgy to music. Whether it be jazz, alt-country, 60s pop, or soul, our services are continually re-imagining the ways in which the ancient words of our liturgy can work in our lives.
What is a liturgy? The liturgy is the traditional service of the Lutheran Church, from the Lord’s Prayer to the confession of sin. In a Mercy Seat liturgy we take many of these parts and set them to song, so that we sing “Lamb of God, have mercy on us” and “Holy is our God.”
For some, the liturgy is an old concept, something they’ve repeated since they were kids, “Lord have mercy, Kyrie, etc…” The ritual of the liturgy can seem an all-too-familiar husk of routine. For them, we’re trying to rework these words and breathe new life in them.
For others (and much of our community), though, the notion of tradition can seem off-putting. Evangelicalism has told us that spontaneity is the key to faith. For them, we want to emphasize the continual “becoming” of the Church. We participate in tradition–not because our ancestors in faith we’re so much more right–but because we, like them, come to church as part of a continual admission of our need for mercy and grace. The liturgy is a way in which we make celebration, brokenness, and humility part of our routines.