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The Abyssinian Mass Comes to Cleveland

Acclaimed conductor Damien Sneed will present Wynton Marsalis’ stirring work

Damian Sneed

The Abyssinian Mass is a sweeping composition for big band and gospel choir written by Wynton Marsalis to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. The piece earned significant acclaim upon its release in 2008 and sparked a 16-city, 19-concert tour, featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Chorale Le Chateau directed by prominent recording artist Damien Sneed. On April 8, Sneed will conduct one of the first regional productions of the Mass at Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium, featuring CSU’s Jazz Heritage Orchestra and the Community Mass Choir.

“The Abyssinian Mass is a stirring work that combines jazz, gospel and blues and evokes the African-American experience while also emphatically stating that all people have a place in this world,” notes Donna Whyte, interim director of CSU’s Black Studies Program. “We are very honored to host the fantastic Damien Sneed and present this amazing concert to the Cleveland community.”

Tickets are on sale now and are $20 in advance for general admission and $15 for students. General admission tickets will be available at the door for $25. For more information or to purchase tickets visit,

The Jazz Heritage Orchestra is a professional, 17-piece, not-for-profit performance/education collective which is officially in residence in CSU's Black Studies Program. The orchestra is composed of jazz performers and music educators with the dual goal of presenting high quality musical performances while also providing an understanding and love of jazz to the next generation.

Damien Sneed is a multi-genre recording artist, musician and conductor. He serves as the director of the Chorale Le Chateau and has worked with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Jessye Norman, Stevie Wonder, and The Clark Sisters, among many others. He previously served as musical director for Opera Noire and was the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence, which is presented annually to emerging black and Latino leaders in classical music.