I really do like bluegrass. I just spent an evening at Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite listening to it. Thus I can say without prejudice that Carol Barnett’s “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass,” performed Saturday night by the Choral Art Society before a sellout crowd at Woodfords Congregational Church, is another bright idea that doesn’t work.

It is reminiscent of the hip, guitar-enhanced religious services that were popular during the ’60s — neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. The with-it translation of the Catholic Mass didn’t help, either.

The Choral Art Society, under Robert Russell, gave it as good a Maine premiere as possible, with Maine soprano Kelly Caufield and tenors Jonathan Smith and Mark Nordli as soloists, and an authentic bluegrass band composed of Erica Brown, fiddle; Steve Roy, mandolin; Read McNamara, banjo; Matt Shipman, guitar; and Amanda Kowalski, bass.

Barnett’s music is pleasant, and she is able to make a bluegrass band sound Middle Eastern, medieval, orchestral or menacing at will, but its down-home good times appeal (and exciting speed) is lost in translation, while the Mass loses its majesty. Sometimes, rarely, fusion works, but all too often one winds up with Mantovani.

Adding to the confusion were a few disconnects between the chorus and the band. The audience loved it, if a standing ovation is evidence anymore.

The Mass occupied the second half of the program, but the really spiritually moving music came during the first half, especially a wonderful setting by Morten Lauridsen of the James Agee poem “Sure on this shining night.”

The program got off to a brilliant start with Eric Whitacre’s musiking of the e.e. cummings poem “little man in a hurry,” ending with a shouted “STOP!”

The three hymns by William Billings were also beautifully rendered. It seems that choruses are taking the advice of New England’s first composer seriously, that basses should outnumber the other vocal lines.

Three African-American spirituals were also well done, with solos by alto Amanda Mahaffey and bass Sheldon Bird.

Interpolated into the program were four famous Broadway songs by Caufield, with fine cabaret piano by Dan Moore. Caufield seems destined for Broadway, with her clear diction, acting ability and vocal power. Her voice is appealing in softer passages, but she needs to work on her Ethel Merman-style loud, high notes. With the mic, some of them were actually painful.

A little memory training wouldn’t hurt either. No one should muff the words to “Over the Rainbow.”

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at [email protected]