|Composition Year||April–May 2009|
|Genre Categories||; ; ; ; ;; ; ;|
|Work Title||Ite, missa est – Deo gratias|
|Opus/Catalogue NumberOp./Cat. No.||Op 6|
|Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.||April–May 2009|
|First Performance.||Melbourne, Old Melbourne Gaol, 17 May 2009|
|First Publication.||June 2009|
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period||Modern|
|Instrumentation||SATB choir, tenor trombone, kbd, timp, 5–6 perc|
glock, bass d., snare d., tam-tam, cymb., tom-toms, bongos, congas
The last and latest work on the programme (some of the percussion parts were still being written out in full as late as Wednesday), in some ways hearkens back to the earliest traditions of music history.
When the anonymous composers began compiling the plainsong we today describe as Gregorian chant, over a period of many hundreds of years from 700 CE to 1000 CE, the cycles of mass movements usually contained one extra movement than was common from the Renaissance onwards: in addition to the familiar texts of Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus, and Agnus Dei (as you have just heard twice already, set in full by Father Haazen and Sandra Uitdenbogerd) these Gregorian masses would include a final short melody with which to bring the mass setting to an end.
The text for this short coda is “Ite, missa est” (Go, the mass is ended), and it is from the Latin word missa that we in fact derive both the word for the mass itself, as well as the verb to dismiss, in the particular meaning of sending away. The choir’s response to this proposition is equally terse: “Deo gratias!” (Thanks be to God!)
So when Sandra and I began talking about her setting of the mass – in particular, that for many years it lacked one movement – I pointed out this peculiarity, that since the middle ages, most masses had lacked the final “Ite, missa est”. In a little more than an instant, this became a challenge on my part to provide a short movement to bring the concert to a satisfactory close.
In terms of inspiration, there were a number of specific ideas, not all musical, which provided input into the composition. The main rhythmical ideas were not derived from either of the masses by Sandra or the Congolese priest, but by listening to too much of Australian composer Graeme Koehne’s orchestral music, particularly his rumba-flavoured Powerhouse, and the curiously-named Elevator Music. The melodic ideas (occasionally treated in invertible counterpoint) borrow a little from each of those works, as well as from the well known Gregorian sequence from the Requiem mass for the dead, the Dies iræ.
In this respect, the most notable non-musical influence to shade the composition have been the recent sayings and doings of the current Roman Catholic pontiff, who in his former rôle as the head prefect of the Holy Inquisition (or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it is usually referred to instead) was famously on the record expressing his appreciation of the form of the old Latin mass known as the Tridentine rite. One cannot help but feel that the choristers giving enthusiastic voice to the words “Deo gratias!” in my setting of “Ite, missa est!” are in fact rather pleased that the mass is now ended, so that they may “get the hell out of there”, so to speak, with all due haste.