Perkovich, the man behind the polka Mass, sounds like a character from "A Prairie Home Companion," and because he is a native Minnesotan, the retired cleric even talks like one.
He is the lone dissenter among the three composers, worrying that his creation might be too joyful. But perhaps he has the most to fear, because a few renegade polka Mass worshipers have used a giant pretzel for the Communion host. Perkovich dismissed them as "screwball." He cautioned: "This is not a dance job. It's more reserved."
The polka Mass is a source of regional pride, and Minnesota Monthly listed it among "40 moments that changed Minnesota," along with the opening of the Mall of America.
The idea of a polka Mass invites easy jokes about Lawrence Welk, and it's true that the polka, with its recurring themes of stolen \o7kishkas, \f7seems an unlikely source of divine inspiration.
But it's difficult to listen to recordings of the polka Mass, based on Slovenian and Croatian folk songs, and not be moved by the simple, heartfelt devotion as the "Barking Dog Polka" is transformed into "We Offer Bread and Wine."
It was even the subject of a 1992 article in the scholarly journal American Music by Robert Walser, now a professor at UCLA, who wrote that the polka Mass seems "completely natural to insiders and utterly bizarre to most others. People who have participated in a polka Mass consider it a special occasion for worship and celebration while many outsiders regard it as a travesty and some even refuse to believe in its existence."
Interviewed by phone from his home in Chisholm, Minn., where he was preparing to conduct polka Masses on a Royal Caribbean cruise, Perkovich said he began in 1973 in search of new ways to attract worshipers.
In addition to making recordings with Joe Cvek and the Polka Mass-ters and Joe Pat Paterek and His International Polka Stars, Perkovich took his Mass to the Vatican.
Not only did John Paul II give his blessing to the polka Mass during its 1983 performance, the pontiff found it moving -- literally. "I could see his red shoes tapping," Perkovich said.
On the Web: Hear excerpts from the Masses at latimes.com/massmusic.