Notes on the program by Jason Asbury.
Missa Pangea: One Text, Three Cultural Perspectives.
Grace and Spiritus Chorale of Brooklyn is presenting three settings of the Latin mass from three continents. Since the Ordinary of the Roman mass was codified in the early11th century, composers have developed musical settings to function within the liturgy. The earliest settings of the text were Gregorian chants dating back to the Middle Ages. The development of polyphony in the Renaissance led to innovations in the mass championed by composers like Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem and Jacob Obrecht.
For the next five centuries, composers of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras set the text in ways reflecting the compositional practices of the time. Many composers of the 21st century continue to pay homage to the Latin mass by composing concert settings meant to function outside of the liturgy.
This program features an eighteenth century Austrian setting, a late twentieth century Canadian setting and a mid-twentieth century Congolese setting. These cultural expressions of rhythm, harmony and melody bring the text to life in wildly different ways.
Coronation Mass – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Of the sacred works that Mozart composed in Salzburg, None is as well known or as popular as the Mass in C that he composed in 1779. It is a grand ceremonial setting that is compact in structure. The Mass was not composed for, but was performed at the Coronation of Francis I in Prague (1792) and probably Leopold II (1791). Mozart’s festive setting exemplifies the best of the Classical period of European music.
Miss Brevis – Ruth Watson Henderson (b.1932)
As implied by the title, the Missa Brevis is a short version of the ordinary mass. The setting, composed by one of Canada’s leading female composers of the twentieth century, employs harmonic language that clearly places the piece inn the late twentieth century, while paying tribute to early European mass settings of the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
Missa Luba – Arr. By Father Guido Haazen (1921-2004)
This exuberant work is based on traditional Congolese songs. Initially, the piece was improvised and later notated by Father Haazen, a priest who arrived in the Belgian Congo in 1953. Its popularity rose after the release of a recording in 1958 and it has been used in several movie soundtracks. The piece demonstrates the best of indigenous choral settings of the Latin mass from an African perspective, particularly the Congolese perspective.