4 Nov 2016

Dorothy BUCHANAN: Mass in English

From Resound, 10:00 pm on 4 November 2016
Dorothy Buchanan

Dorothy Buchanan Photo: Supplied by SOUNZ

Dorothy Buchanan is a pioneering figure in New Zealand composition.

She was New Zealand’s first composer-in-schools, and in 1979 became both president of the Composers’ Association of New Zealand and the first woman to join the Musicians’ Union.

In the same year she founded the Christchurch Music Workshops, and co-founded the music publishing co-operative Nota Bene.

She has received a CANZ Outstanding Achievement Award, and in 2001 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for a lifetime’s involvement in music.

Of this work, Dorothy Buchanan says:

I have written several Masses in my years as a composer. The Mass in English was written at the time when Pope John 23rd (the people's Pope) decided that the Latin liturgy should be advanced to the vernacular. I greatly admired this Pope and his wonderful work for people of the world. I was inspired to write this work for SSA unaccompanied. The first section, Lord have Mercy (Kyrie) contains elements both of contrapuntal and homophonic textures. The next section, the Gloria, starts in a homophonic texture and reflects the glory of God. In the next section Lord God, Lamb of God there is a more contrapuntal approach and an air of pleading. The final section reflects the Glory of God in a joyous and celebratory manner.

Sanctus Benedictus - in a quiet and reflective manner, the choir is divided into two parts and it has elements and inversion between sopranos and altos. Where the text reads Lord God of Hosts, the three parts are divisi again and the third part is homophonic. The Benedictus is a cry of joy at the blessing of God’s love.

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) - the two soprano parts singing a second apart in a chanting style give the alto line the solo melody. On the “have mercy on us” the section is unison. The rest of Agnus Dei is a prayer to grant us peace and on that last word, so relevant in today’s world, the Mass ends.

The first performance of the work is a bit hazy for me. However I think it may have been with my sisters and a few ring-ins, or a choir I formed in the 1970s during the time I was composer in schools in Christchurch called Centre Sound. This comprised senior students from Burnside High School, my sisters, cousins and family friends.

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