Missa brevis

Duration: ca. 8′

Instrumentation: SSAATTBB voices

Score: View score

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Performance Note: I’ve long been fascinated by the Mass Ordinary. Among the first classical music I remember owning was a recording of Mozart’s incomplete C minor Mass and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass (the latter still very much a favorite). And I’ll never forget the first (to date only) Latin Mass I ever attended, on Pentecost Sunday 2001 at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Perhaps because of these associations, I’ve always found the idea of setting the text of the Ordinary extremely daunting.

In early 2010, I found one way around this “anxiety of association” by setting four sections of the Ordinary not in Latin but in English. I wasn’t satisfied with the result, though, either musically (it was written quickly and that fact showed) or linguistically (English has many wonderful qualities, but conveying a sense of spiritual mystery isn’t typically one of them). So, in 2013, I returned to my “English Mass” with the intent of salvaging as much of it as possible and translating the whole piece to Latin.

To my surprise, half the piece (the Kyrie and Agnus Dei) was save-able. I composed a new Gloria and a subdued Sanctus – the practice of writing exuberant, dancing Sanctuses has always struck me as being at odds with the sobriety of the text and the whole concept of God’s holiness – and opted not to include the Credo (both for the sake of time and due to its being a highly personal statement of faith). It’s my hope that the Missa brevis might serve as a bit of functional liturgical music, in addition to any life it may find on concert programs.