• Kenneth Leighton
  • Mass (1964)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • organ (in Credo only)
  • SSAATTBB
  • soprano, alto, tenor, bass
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Kenneth Leighton: Mass, Op. 44

The Mass, Op. 44, is dedicated to Herrick Bunney and the Edinburgh University Singers, and was first performed by them at a University chamber concert in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, in February this year. The work is the most recent of a large number of religious works written at intervals during the last ten years or so and is entirely a capella except for the Creed. The two choirs and four soloists are employed in many different ways; the following the brief summary of these may help.

Kyrie: the first Kyrie are sung by women's voices (both choirs); the Christes begin on men's voices but soon the full choirs join to build up a central climax. The final Kyries are for both choirs, this time with a single unison melody in first choir and a chordal accompaniment in second choir.

Gloria: The opening paragraph uses an antiphonal treatment of the two choirs, but they come together on Laudamus te. Benedicimus te starts a new section, with three of the soloists singing a very simple melody against a soft choral accompaniment. Gratias agimus tibi is for both choirs, partly antiphonal and partly imitative. The quieter middle section (Domine fili) employs all four soloists, and predominantly the soprano solo in the Misereres. Quoniam tu solus sanctus marks a return of the previous material and texture, but there is also a final paragraph in slower tempo starting with Cum sancto spiritu. Here soprano and alto soloists sing above the 'processional' choral accompaniment.

Credo: A declamatory setting in which the organ has a simple ostinato accompaniment (two chords to each bar) which is maintained throughout.

Sanctus: A soft interweaving texture first on women's then on men's voices. In the third paragraph the interweaving texture is joined by a sustained chorale-like theme (Sanctus Dominus) rising up from the bass and gradually dominating. Pleni sunt coeli is a fast seven-part fugue, and the Hosannas a kind of quiet dance in irregular rhythm.

Benedictus: Soprano, alto, and tenor soloists sing the melody above a slow-moving choral accompaniment.

Agnus Dei: Here the melody is closely related to that of the Kyries. The first Agnus dei is given to the four soloists alone, rising from the bass and culminating in a choral outburst of Miserere. The second Agnus is for full choirs - a more extended version of the first Agnus and ending with second cry of Miserere at a higher pitch. The third Agnus is very short and for soprano solo; below this the choirs sing Dona nobis to a simple rising motive distributed in eight parts, and culminating in the word pacem, which is repeated four times in soft chords.
© Kenneth Leighton

Listen

Mass, Op. 44: I. Kyrie
Mass, Op. 44: II. Gloria
Mass, Op. 44: III. Credo
Mass, Op. 44: IV. Sanctus
Mass, Op. 44: V. Benedictus
Mass, Op. 44: VI. Agnus Dei

Discography

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