A brand new Mass by John Rutter has just received its world première at Carnegie Hall, New York (13 Feb 2003), followed by the first UK performance on Saturday 8 March 2003 in Guildford Cathedral. Mass of the Children is a setting of the Missa Brevis (ie without a Credo) and features striking new settings for mixed choir of the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Though a good deal of Rutter's music can be managed by young singers, this Mass is unusual among his better known larger scale liturgical works (Gloria, Magnificat, Requiem) in making integral use of a children's choir. They not only join in words of the Gloria and Benedictus and final Agnus Dei, but weave in and around the text two of the best known seventeenth century hymn tunes, the morning and evening hymns (both with words by Bishop Thomas Ken, 1637-1711). This contrast and mixture of voices plays a major part in the work's effect. A soprano and baritone soloist also play a major role in the first two movements and intone two prayers (sixth and sixteenth century) before the final movement.
The composer conducted both premières in person. In New York the New England Symphonic Ensemble was joined by soprano Shannah Timms and baritone Peter Castaldi and choruses from throughout the United States and Canada in the world première of the Mass, together with the US première of Rutter's setting of Psalm 150 and a performance of his anthem Feel the Spirit. The Guildford première was by the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, Guildford Camerata and excellent Farnham Youth Choir, with soloists Joanne Lunn and Roderick Williams, again conducted by the composer. Organists Stephen Farr and Stephen Disley added a performance of Rutter's engaging duet for organ, Variations on a Christmas Theme, based on the tune for O filii et filiae, taken from a French seventeenth century hymnal.
Rutter, a former director of music at Clare College, Cambridge and co-editor with Sir David Willcocks of the groundbreaking Carols for Choirs, is an honorary fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey and was the first living composer to be honoured with the Archbishop of Canterbury's award of a Lambeth Doctorate of Music, in 1996. He will direct a performance of his Gloria and Requiem at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC on Sunday 6 April 2003 at 8.30pm, his first appearance in Washington for several years.
The Magnificat will be performed at Carnegie Hall on Sunday 20 April 2003 at 2.30pm by choirs from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, again conducted by the composer, and the Requiem, again at Carnegie Hall, New York, with choirs from Georgia, Michigan and Texas on Sunday 18 May at 8.30pm and on Sunday 25 May 2003 at 2.00pm (Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia). Rutter will present an all-day choral workshop at Breda, The Netherlands on Saturday 7 June 2003 from 10am.
Posted: 13 March 2003
by Roderic Dunnett
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