Monday, November 09, 2009

Mass in Blue

Last night my choir, St George's Singers, sang Will Todd's Mass in Blue at the Royal Northern College of Music. It's the words of the Latin mass set in a jazz idiom. It works surprisingly well and is terrific fun to sing. We were accompanied by the College's jazz ensemble. The soloist was Tina May, whose delivery was quite extraordinary.
The music is very melodic and rhythmic and "catchy". I know I am not the only member of the choir who has been humming the tunes in the shower ever since we started rehearsals. But it is also very sensitively set to the words. It starts solemnly with Kyrie (Lord have Mercy) set to a plaintive melody reminiscent of a negro spiritual, which the soprano soloist takes away in a soaring variation. The Gloria (Glory to God) is joyful and upbeat, but the Credo (We Believe) is my favourite movement. I have always wanted to sing in a Gospel choir and the Gospel-style writing here is probably the closest I will get. The solo part is just sublime and Miss May's singing was incredible. The Benedictus (Blessed is He) is probably the most fun movement to sing as the different parts of the choir imitate musical instruments in a sort of jazz quartet. The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) is the most musically complex, but it segues unusually into a reprise of the Credo and the whole mass finishes on the most glorious high. The audience applause was as rapturous as any I have ever heard.
I had a really fantastic day singing this super piece. It will be quite a come-down to start rehearsing boring old familiar Christmas music after this.


our friend Ben said...

This sounds beyond awesome, Melanie! I wish I'd been there to hear it! And of course I hope there's a recorded version that I can order via Amazon, I can't wait to hear it!

Diana Studer said...

I wish I could hear you singing! We are practising towards +mas, themed around bells.

Anonymous said...

Most awesome piece ever! My choir was lucky enough (read: 'aided greatly by the composer's influence'!) to be able to sing it liturgically in Durham cathedral in August. We've yet to learn the Kyrie and Credo.

@our friend Ben - it most certainly is available on Amazon, along with some other excellent Todd pieces:

I particularly recommend Christus est Stella. Prod your choir to do that for Christmas, Mel!

Yellow said...

I am so sad I couldn't come, it being on a Sunday night & my living 150 odd miles away. I can't wait for the CD to arrive in the post either.

Bill of Ballaugh said...

You played some of it to me when I was over in October. Really enjoyed what I heard. Do I gather, from what Steph says, that St George's have made a cd of this mass. If this is so, I'd like a copy.