Instrumentation: SATB chorus (8 parts); Difficulty: Advanced; Dedicated to Graeme Morton
When Graeme Morton offered me a commission to compose a Latin mass he expressed the hope that it would contain elements making it identifiably Australian. This specification I found particularly appealing: I'd long been infusing Latin and other texts I set to music with rhythms and drones of Australia in such works as Flower Songs (1986) and Mountain Chant (2004). The commission was also intended to mark the 150th anniversaries of the state of Queensland and the Anglican and Catholic Dioceses of Brisbane, as well as the completion of the neo-Gothic St. John's Cathedral.
I think the Dreaming (Alchera) of Aboriginal peoples is like our Eternity, where time is omnipresent rather than linear. It is also inextricably associated with the land - the Earth Mother - at the deepest creative level, and I believe that rituals that have been imported from other places are most likely to retain their potency and relevance when they develop a similar connection.
I also believe that those rituals capable of suspending our self-consciousness and promoting awareness of the mystery of the here and now are essential to the wellbeing of both individuals and society. To this end I had intended to make my mass as much a contemplation as a celebration. Composing it during a time of fire and flood, however, often provoked an emotional response to the drama inherent in the text, so that outbursts of intensity are apt to intrude on moments of serene detachment. Listeners may detect shapes and patterns that recall natural voices of the environment as well as various kinds of chant, both liturgical and Aboriginal. I think Missa Alchera may be said to be ecumenical in the broadest sense.