Polka Mass a hit for Heidelberg Polka Band

By on October 14, 2015

 

“It’s a dream come true,” says The Rev. Glenn Beard Jr., who for more than 20 years, wanted the Heidelberg Polka Band to write and perform a Polka Mass.

What is a Polka Mass?

It’s a liturgical service utilizing Christian lyrics with polka, waltz, and march tunes familiar to many people.

It’s used in many churches, mainly Roman Catholic and Lutheran for special occasions, just like a blues, jazz, or folk mass. The band praises God with the mass, which is both respectful and fun.

Photos courtesy Heidelberg Polka Band Heidelberg Polka Band members include (from  left): Bruce Wanner, Ed Kolle, Jay Boyer, Blake Hillard, Glenn Beard, Glenn Beard Jr., Jim Beard, Jeff Hartranft, and Rod Luckenbill.

Photos courtesy Heidelberg Polka Band
Heidelberg Polka Band members include (from left): Bruce Wanner, Ed Kolle, Jay Boyer, Blake Hillard, Glenn Beard, Glenn Beard Jr., Jim Beard, Jeff Hartranft, and Rod Luckenbill.

In Chicago and other parts of the Midwest, the Polka Mass is used at least once a year and more often if there’s a special celebration.

When Beard first researched a Polka Mass, he learned about Father Frank Perkovich, a Roman Catholic priest who served several parishes in Minnesota.

Perkovich developed a Polka Mass that quickly became popular and he was inducted into the National Polka Hall of Fame because of his work.

A career highlight for Perkovich was performing the Mass before Pope John Paul II in 1983 in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Perkovich granted Beard permission to use any and all of his work in his endeavor. Beard first considered his band doing a Polka Mass while he was a seminarian at The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg,

A more direct influence on the band (as seen in “Such a Day,” and the Hymn of Praise, “Glory to God,”), has been the work of Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Edward Battiste, who was serving in Greenville, Ohio, when Beard first contacted him in 1996. He also granted Beard permission to use his work.

The Polka Mass work took off in 2014 when Dr. Jay Hertzog, former band member and longtime friend, visited Beard. He asked Hertzog to use the organ and accordion music from Perkovich and Battiste to arrange musical parts for the brass band.

Hertzog collaborated with a Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Carl Witt Jr. who celebrated a Polka Mass at Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Desert, Calif. Witt, who first began using a Polka Mass while serving a parish in Las Vegas, Nev., indicated it was always one of the most popular worship services of the year. He also gave Beard permission to use any material from his service.

 Lisa Beard guided the Polka Mass work to fruition so the first Polka Mass in May 2015 could help celebrate her husband’s 25th ordination anniversary.

Lisa Beard guided the Polka Mass work to fruition so the first Polka Mass in May 2015 could help celebrate her husband’s 25th ordination anniversary.

“When my wife Lisa, who is also a musician, learned of my request to Hertzog, she “lit a fire” under him to finish the first draft of this Mass so it could be performed as a surprise for my 25th ordination anniversary at Trinity Lutheran Church, New Holland on May 17, 2015,” Beard said.

Lisa Beard also figures prominently into the Polka Mass development as she wrote beautiful lyrics to several hymns, including “Rise Up, Disciples, “God of Love,” and “I Love to Go A’Wandering.”

Another source of wisdom and guidance during the development of the mass was Brent Snyder, a music educator and good friend from Beard’s first parish in Juniata County.

“Snyder spent countless hours transposing and re-working hymns for the Polka Mass,” said Beard.

Lisa Beard’s efforts to bring the Polka Mass to fruition in time for her husband’s ordination anniversary, have resulted in wide popularity and many requests for the band for churches throughout Lancaster, Berks, and Schuylkill counties.

Polka music is joyful in its soul. Even before the May 2015 debut Mass at Trinity Lutheran Church, New Holland, word spread and non-members as well as members joined the celebration because, as one visitor, said: “I came to hear the music.”

Many people know the Heidelberg Band from Octoberfest celebrations, entertainment for banquets/holidays and the main musical attraction for Kutztown’s annual Pennsylvania German Festival.

“We have many church requests for the Polka Mass,” said Beard, whose full-time job is director of church relations and pastoral care at Luthercare, Lititz. “We are happy to accommodate as many requests as we can.”

Upcoming Polka Masses include: Oct. 25 at Faith United Lutheran Church, Denver; Nov. 21 at The Lutheran Church of St. John in the Heights, Jim Thorpe; Jan. 17 at Swamp Lutheran Church, Reinholds; Jan. 24 at Mellinger’s Lutheran Church, Schoeneck; and Feb. 7 at Tree of Life Lutheran Church, Harrisburg.

For more information about the band, contact Pastor Glenn Beard Jr. at gbeardjr@ptd.net or call (717) 721-7978.

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