crot/2cyms/vib/glsp/tamb/cowbell/xyl/wdbl/brake dr/guiro/bowed gong-strings
Boosey & Hawkes
When I first met with Jonathan Sheffer to discuss writing a piece for Eos one of the very first things he asked was “Do you want to write a mass?” It was, in truth, one of the last things I would have ever thought of writing, but when he suggested it I found it immediately appealing.
I’ve always loved the musical form of the mass, particularly when in the hands of Old Masters like Josquin, Byrd or Lassus. But in setting a mass myself, I felt the need to bring something of the world I live in now into contact with this beautiful old text. And for me, that something was the way my view of the world was formed by science. When I see the night sky littered with stars I know that they are at unfathomable distances from earth, that some of these faint pinpricks of light are themselves entire galaxies made of billions of stars, that all these lights are rushing away from each other at incredible speeds, and that despite their remoteness I am intimately connected to them. Almost all the chemicals that make up my body where forged in an ancient generation of stars that exploded their mass out into the universe. We are all made of stardust. It’s dizzyingly strange, but by all accounts true. It’s this sense of awe about the world we live in that I felt was somehow in tune with the religious awe that inspired the text of the mass, written so long ago. But there is a darker side too. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of this description of physical world and in the end science admits to huge uncertainties. Belief forms the core of the Latin mass. At the heart of Night Mass is a mixture of wonder and doubt. The piece follows the ordinary sequence of movements in a mass except that the Credo is replaced by a new text written by Thomas Bolt. The movement is entitled “Incertum,” which means “uncertainty.”
- Sebastian Currier
“The item that truly stood out from the rest was the Sanctus from Sebastian Currier’s Night Mass. Currier’s simple harmonies develop slowly, each moment richly composed and flowing naturally into the next. There is a deep but quiet sorrow throughout, an interesting twist on what in most musical settings is one of the more jubilant sections of the mass—Currier’s realization even features pensive quotations of the “Dies irae” plainchant, calling to mind one of the darkest parts of the mass. His Sanctus is a fascinating meditation on the troubled relationship between grief and pious devotion, and was perhaps the program’s clearest link back to Virgil, who famously asks “Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?”—“Can heavenly spirits harbor such great anger?” —New York Classical Review