Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass for the Endangered, the fourth recording in a partnership between New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records, was released on September 25, 2020. Snider’s Mass features text from the Latin ordinarium interspersed with original poetry by Nathaniel Bellows, and both celebrates and elegizes the natural world, appealing for greater awareness, urgency, and action toward its stewardship.
Originally commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, this recording features the English vocal ensemble Gallicantus conducted by Gabriel Crouch. Deborah Johnson and CandyStations have created music videos for the mass' Kyrie, Alleluia, and Sanctus/Benedictus movements. The piece will also have its European Premiere November 15, with the Latvian Radio Choir at the Concert Hall “Latvija” in Ventspils.
Snider explains, “The origin of the Mass is rooted in humanity’s concern for itself, expressed through worship of the divine — which, in the Catholic tradition, is a God in the image of man. Nathaniel and I thought it would be interesting to take the Mass’s musical modes of spiritual contemplation and apply them to concern for non-human life — animals, plants, and the environment. There is an appeal to a higher power — for mercy, forgiveness, and intervention — but that appeal is directed not to God but rather to Nature itself.”
Growing up in Princeton, NJ, the one-time home of the American Boychoir School, Snider attended that venerable institution’s co-ed summer camp as a youth: “I attended for five summers. I fell in love with choral singing there, and later sang with the Princeton High School Choir, which was at the time one of the most celebrated high school choirs in the country. These experiences were profoundly formative for me, and I learned a lot of the choral repertoire. I felt very at home in that music, but I hadn’t yet had a chance to explore it in my writing in a significant way. The Mass was my first large choral commission, and I was thrilled to immerse myself in memories of singing the Mozart, Brahms, and Fauré Requiems, the Palestrina and Byrd Masses, and the Bach chorales.
“Rather than consciously upend those traditions,” she continues, “I wanted to open the gates in my mind between centuries-old European vocal traditions and those of more recent American vernacular persuasion, and write from a place where differing thoughts about line, text, form, and expression could co-exist.”
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