‘Terce’ Review: How the Other Half Prays, in a Reimagined Mass

‘Terce’ Review: How the Other Half Prays, in a Reimagined Mass

And it’s more of a spectacle than a service. Instead of emulating a leader-follower dichotomy, “Terce” draws from the talents and experiences of a singing, dancing and playing ensemble of 38 “caregivers and makers” — some professional and even virtuosic like Christian, some amateur and unpolished. Keyboards, guitars, woodwinds, strings and percussion are part of the instrumental mix (music direction by Mona Seyed-Bolorforosh and Jacklyn Riha), but so are key rings, silverware, an eggbeater and a vacuum cleaner.

As those homely implements suggest, “Terce” focuses on the work of people not often celebrated in liturgy: those who keep house, cultivate gardens, nurture children. A program note describes the approach as a “lens of the divine feminine,” albeit one that does not reject maleness.

The Heather Christian Version of Psalm 118, which in the King James Version begins, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good,” makes the shift clear. “If Creation stepped down to be among us in the city,” Christian sings, “She would not dress in Gucci or argue loud across the table.”

Though the specific references can seem hermetic — this is still private prayer, even if turned outward — the vision is clear enough. References to mothers, plants and foods abound instead of kings and Armageddons. (Hazelnuts figure heavily.) The blood frequently mentioned is not Jesus’, but “her own.”

The music, too, is idiosyncratic: For 60 minutes, plainsong, gospel, electronica, soul and the New Orleans funk of Christian’s upbringing layer into each other like atmospheric thermals. You ride them, completely trusting, with no idea where you’re headed. Like Christian’s astonishing “Oratorio for Living Things” in 2022, “Terce” aims to overwhelm the critical ear through the strangeness, relentlessness and fullness of its sound.

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