Mozart’s ‘Grand Mass’ comes to Peninsula

Jubilee concerts to celebrate 150th anniversary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish

 Grand Mass practice
Members of the Jubilee Singers rehearse for three performances of Mozart’s “Grand Mass in C Minor” that will celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend. Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Rottsolk


By Jean Parietti

If it looks like Jesuit Father John Topel is singing as he drives down the road these days, you’re probably right.

Father Topel is one of the Jubilee Singers, a special community chorus that is joining professional musicians to present three performances of Mozart’s “Grand Mass in C Minor.” The June 13-15 concerts will mark the 150th anniversary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend, where Father Topel has been pastor for eight years.

“He’s had the MIDI [audio] files and has been singing them in his car for at least a year. I kid you not,” said Rebecca Rottsolk of Port Townsend, who is directing the jubilee concerts at St. Mary Church.

Father Topel has been working with Rottsolk on the idea for about two years, she said. When the parish presented Mozart’s “Requiem” a few years ago, it was well-received by the community. For the jubilee of St. Mary’s — “probably the oldest church in Port Townsend,” Father Topel said — he wanted to do something special that reached out to the broader community.

Jesuit Father John Topel
Jesuit Father John Topel, back left, joins the chorus at rehearsals of Mozart’s “Grand Mass in C Minor.” The Mass will be performed at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend, where Father Topel is pastor. Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Rottsolk

“Since the Catholic Church has always been a patron of the arts, I thought a concert would be a good idea,” he said. “I think it’s important to do something that raises our image in the arts community here.”

Rottsolk, former director of Seattle’s Northwest Girlchoir, said she and Father Topel decided on the “Grand Mass” because “it’s a wonderful piece of music. We knew people would want to hear it. It’s exciting, it’s got drama and it’s got delicacy. It’s just very emotional,” she said. Mozart never finished the work, so some parts of the Mass, like the Agnus Dei, are missing.

The performances will feature four professional soloists, and each concert will open with soprano Clara Rottsolk (Rottsolk’s daughter and a Philadelphia-based professional) singing Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate” motet.

Rebecca Rottsolk praised Father Topel for working to make St. Mary’s a place where “music is welcomed. It’s a beautiful place to perform.”

Besides bringing great music to the area, Father Topel said the anniversary concerts are a chance to introduce Port Townsend and the surrounding communities to St. Mary’s and the good work its parishioners do.

“We certainly are unknown for all of the social support that we give to the poor in this area,” Father Topel said, to the tune of distributing more than $100,000 a year to people in need. “It’s just an absolutely wonderful parish,” he said.

And that’s worth singing about.


How to attend

What: Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate” motet and “Grand Mass in C Minor”

Where: St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, 1335 Blaine St., Port Townsend

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 13; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14; and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15. (St. Mary’s Parish will host a reception following the Sunday concert.)

Performers: Jubilee Singers, 24-piece orchestra and professional soloists Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Joel Cummings, tenor; Beth Ann Bonnecroy, soprano; and Jonathan Silvia, bass. 

Tickets: A donation of $15 per ticket is requested. Purchase tickets at Crossroads Music in Port Townsend,

Information: 360-379-3458


Jubilee year concludes

A two-day celebration in August will conclude the 150th anniversary year at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the parish will gather for Mass at 4 p.m., followed by a potluck dinner and a one-man play about missionary Father Louis Rossi, who established Port Townsend’s first church, St. Anthony’s Mission, in 1859.

At 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain will join the community to bless the church’s recently completed vestibule addition and the church doors. A parish picnic will follow.

For more about St. Mary’s, visit


June 6, 2014