Commission: The Washington and Lee Glee Club for the Intercollegiate Men's Choruses
Premiere: Intercollegiate Men's Chorus, National Conference, Lexington,VA, March 20, 1992
Duration: 22 minutes
Instrumentation: men's chorus and piano (3 chimes or handbells, played by chorus members)
V. Agnus Dei
Movements may be performed individually or in any combination.
Missa Brevis was commissioned by The Washington and Lee Glee Club for the Intercollegiate Men's Choruses. The progression from movement to movement has something of a story line. The overall plan of the work incorporates musical references to various religious personality types. The Kyrie and Gloria represent two perceptions of the early Christian church. The Kyrie, fashioned after Gregorian Chant, depicts the pure and spiritual. The Gloria, almost militant in places, depicts the political winners in the early struggles over issues such as who would lead the church, how the superstructure would be set up and which books of all those that had been written would be included in the New Testament.
The more contemporary personality depicted in the Sanctus is tentative and questioning. However, it resolves into a momentary burst of strength and affirmation at the end of the movement. Bells ring while the chorus sings Osanna. The "bells" section was inspired, by the tolling of church bells in a Swiss Alpine village, where the composer stayed. The bells rang at regular intervals for many minutes. The rhythmical relationships created by these three bells, which each rang at a different speed, was constantly changing and very intriguing.
In the traditional manner, after the priest's simple intoning of the Benedictus the Osanna is restated. In the Agnus Dei the psyche has elevated emotionally to a level of acceptance and peace.