Today, I was sent this email message from a KSS bass, new to the choir this season. It’s good to hear how things seem from the choir’s perspective—or maybe we don’t want to know? Anyway, it made me laugh, so I share it with you…
This concert has been 20 years in the making. Did anyone envision this program during some of those rehearsals during that first year?
Both works are recognized within choral circles as challenging and not for the musically faint of heart. Compliments from the players from Orchestra London are not given out easily! We are in the “A” league of ensembles.
What makes KSS unique is the next concert. With equal technical finesse, we will take our LIVE audience down a different musical road with an entirely different style. Rare is the choir anywhere that can sing this with the KSS flair.
From the ranks, an apology is in order for all the unspoken rehearsal utterances and e-mail note comments – things like “If she goes over this ONE more time!!” or “we weren’t THAT far out of tune!!” or “where in the @#$&% are we supposed to get that pitch from?” & “how are we supposed to count when the time signature and the @#$&% tempo keeps changing every bar!?!”
In strange way and a first for me as a singer, am looking forward to late Saturday afternoon, after a long nap, to listening to the recordings one final time (a suggestion from Paul Grambo to get my head in the right space), then to the church for warm ups and all those vocal exercises that back in January made no sense.
Kudos are earned for all your work, patience and shear determination over the last few weeks.
What a beautiful voice! Soprano Virginia Hatfield was stunning last night at dress rehearsal for our April 6 concert, “Pathways to Paradise”. I’d heard her last about three years ago and she is even more gorgeous than I remembered! Professional in every way. Perfectly prepared and wonderful to work with. I’m so glad she is our soloist for our big celebration concert with orchestra of the exquisite Duruflé Requiem and the sparkling Poulenc Gloria.
One of my desert island pieces is the Duruflé Requiem, written in 1947. I have loved it since I first heard it back in my undergrad music history course. I remember it to this day, I walked out of the music listening lab (turntables back then) stunned. I was in another world floating down the hall of the music building. I was raised Lutheran and I remember thinking that this work made me wish I were Catholic so I could fully sink into the text of a Requiem mass.
Well, today I can. Still not Catholic, I now have the mental breadth to hear the words in metaphor for life here on earth and they pack a wallop. While listening to it in the Nairobi airport this past January on my way home from Southern Sudan, I remember a particularly emotional reaction to the middle of the fourth movement, the Sanctus. “Hosanna in excelsis”, mean “Deliver!, Save me! (request for God’s deliverance) in the highest”. The tremendous climax that Duruflé wrote for these words gripped my heart as I remembered the people of war-torn Southern Sudan and what they had been through and what they are continuing to suffer in some regions. This text is current; it is powerful today in a deeply human way that transcends denominations and religions.
Musically, Duruflé was influenced by the French Impressionists of his day, Debussy and, especially Ravel. And yet, he used as his main musical inspiration the ancient Gregorian chant, often in it’s entirely, for the Requiem mass. His musical language still resonates with us today while throwing us back across the centuries with the chant, gathering up eons of human experience. Unbelievably beautiful.
Pairing that with Poulenc’s sparkling Gloria—one of the sacred masterworks of the 20th century (1960)—is amazing. This work, too, I fell in love with back in undergrad. Very much not in the expected “sacred” mold, this work states that all of human existence is a holy thing. French cathedral solemnity contrasted sharply with Parisian street flair. Poulenc is unabashed and simply out there. Very funny and very sensual at the same time. He said himself, like Maurice Chevalier! These two works heighten each other wonderfully.
Preparing for this concert has been a true labour of love. Challenging on many levels, for every minute of work put into it, it pays back triple. It The depth of richness one uncovers is endless. The choir has risen to every expressive demand of the music and I have had to grapple with conducting dozens of tempo changes and easily a hundred meter changes, which are at the heart of each work’s rhythmic sinuousness and vigor. We are all better musicians for it.
A watershed concert, to be sure, in the middle of our 20th anniversary season. It doesn’t get better than this. Do come hear it!
This is the music that will be performed this Saturday, November 17, at the first concert of our 20th anniversary season. Interwoven with the music be stories and quotes narrated by Ted Barris, Canadian journalist, author and Canadian war historian.
I am very proud of this concert. It will be moving and uplifting.
Roland Majeau, arr Trent Worthington
Edmonton singer-songwriter Roland Majeau is a talented and passionate Canadian artist who is writing and recording real music for real people. Often likened to James Taylor, Roland’s unique blend of country, folk and pop is a style of music that tells a story.
This poignant song was arranged by Roland’s friend and fellow musician, Trent Worthington.
In Remembrance Eleanor Daley
Toronto composer, Eleanor Daley, is world renowned for her exquisite setting of this moving poem by Mary E. Frye, which is from her Requiem. It speaks of the eternity of the soul.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
The hymn is sung at the annual ANZAC Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and in Remembrance Day services in Canada and Great Britain. This stunning arrangement is by Greg Jasperse, a composer and arranger currently living in Chicago. Blessed with an incredible gift of arrangement and harmony, he has composed for and conducted Vocal Jazz Choirs across North America and Europe.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto:
Dirge for Two Veterans (Dona Nobis Pacem: IV) poem by Walt Whitman, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
This intensely moving piece was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the most influential British musicians of the twentieth century. He was a composer, arranger, editor, collector of folk tunes, and conductor. His outlook was human and social. An important experience in VW’s life was his time in the British Army in WW I. He volunteered for service at age 42, and served as an ambulance driver and as an artillery officer. The impact of the war on his imagination was deep and lasting. His cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem, (Give Us Peace) was written in 1936. VW meant it clearly as a warning against war.
Performed by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Robert Shaw
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Pete Seeger, arr Mark Sirett
Singer-songwriter and American activist, Pete Seeger, has long been at the forefront of Civil Rights and the peace and anti-war movements, as well as the fight for a clean environment. After reading Soviet author Mikhail Sholokhov’s epic novel about the Cossacks pre-World War I, And Quiet Flows the Don. Seeger wrote this song in 1955, adapting it from a Cossack folk song mentioned in the novel. Arranger Dr. Mark Sirett is an award-winning composer living in Kingston, Ontario, whose works are frequently performed by Canada’s leading ensembles.
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Bob Russell & Bobby Scott, arr John Coates, Jr.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, one of the most defining and enduring tunes of the 1960s was by The Hollies and became one of their biggest hits. The origin of the title of the song is often associated with Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. In 1941, Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a young boy carrying his brother with the caption reading “He ain’t heavy Mister – he’s m’ brother!” It is sung here to emphasize the need to help each other if we are to heal the divisions that lead to conflict.
A men’s chorus singing this:
Dona Nobis Pacem (Mass in B Minor, final movement) J.S. Bach
The Mass in B minor is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of all time and is frequently performed. The work was Bach’s last major composition. As the final movement of such a monumental work, the prayer, Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), is the culmination of the entire mass that precedes it. As the first piece of our second half, it heralds the desire for peace in all its forms, going beyond the absence of war. It states our intention and serves as a starting point to explore what might be the work for peace here on this earth.
Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw
Al Shlosha D’Varim Text from the Pirkei Avot (1:18) Allan Naplan
The Pirkei Avot is an important compilation of the ethical and moral teachings of the Rabbis from around 220 CE. The piece is, appropriately, a partner song of two interweaving melodies.
Melody 1: Al shlosha d’varim haolam kayam,
The world’s sustained by three things, by truth and justice and by peace.
Melody 2: Al haemet v’al hadin v’al hashalom, hashalom.
By truth and justice and by the work for peace, the world is sustained for us all.
Treble, Christian Haworth, sings this with us.
Distant Land (A Prayer for Freedom) John Rutter
Words and music were written by John Rutter in 1990, soon after the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. It was premiered in Carnegie Hall, New York.
Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this
Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword (Dona Nobis Pacem: VI) Ralph Vaughan Williams
The final section of Dona Nobis Pacem is an affirmation of peace as justice with mercy. Confident and joyful, it then breaks into a blaze of glory. It fades to the soprano soloist’s repeated prayer for peace, ending the work as a benediction.
Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw
I Dream a World André Thomas
American composer and conductor, André Thomas, set this inspiring poem by Langston Hughes, American poet, social activist, and playwright. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record.
We are joined by treble, Christian Haworth.
I Dream A World – Langston Hughes
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
This Little Light of Mine Harry Dixon Loes, arr Mark Hayes
“This Little Light of Mine” is a gospel song written by American composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes in about 1920 and arranged by the talented and popular composer, Mark Hayes.
In closing with this song, we join the millions around the world who are working for peace in ways big and small by letting our light shine. By letting our light shine in the ways of peace, we remember those who have gone before, and honour their gifts of sacrifice and love.
Ted Barris, narrator
Christian Haworth, treble
Ron Fox, piano, organ
The experience at Festival 500 in July was priceless. The choir worked so hard to take their music to the next level for our three concert performances there and they did it. They’d never sung better. All aspects of our performances were complimented on enthusiastically all week. What a thrill it was to be in that warm, embracing atmosphere on an international stage and know we measure up. How good is that? The best! Now we know our musical skill and artistry are effective across the board. Why is that so great? Because we can use them with greater confidence to tell the stories that make our world a better place. It strengthens the power of our intention. It frees the imagination!
In two days we will be leaving for Newfoundland and Festival 500. A few from the choir are already there, vacationing before the Festival begins. We have had a marvelous adventure preparing for this festival. We do theme concerts, with a variety of themes each season. In fact, our performance mandate states that we do one classical, one populist and one concert ‘especially expressive of the human condition’ each season. That keeps our seasons balanced for our audiences and our repertoire varied for the singers and myself. We repeat music whenever we can, but it is not very often, and certainly rare within one season. The music for our festival performances we performed at our April Going to the Rock! concert.
After an intensely busy spring with two invitations in addition to our final concert of the season, the ‘Small Choir’, as we call the group going to Festival 500 (about 2/3 of the whole choir, since not all were able to commit to the nine-day trip), started rehearsing in earnest to prepare for the three concerts we are to perform while in St. John’s. I knew the high level of quality expected at these events from attending choral conventions. My job was to make that level clear for the choir, who had just come off the busiest spring we ever had and were very happy to slide into summer mode, to set that bar, and in the few rehearsals we had left, to get them singing music they already know at a level they’ve never done before.
The biggest surprise for them has been the fact that they sound much different without the whole choir. The level of individual responsibility and care of tone and tuning go up markedly in a small group and they have to change everything about how they listen and how they sing.
What a joy it has been. Through recording the rehearsals, individual work, voice matching, and meticulous attention to the finest details, they sound great. From my background in music performance, I know that the best you can do is get the music up to the highest level of which you are capable, then let the inspiration and excitement of the moment take you the rest of the way. With part of your brain, you keep track of the details and the musical information rushing past you and with the other part you let go to let the text and the story come alive. It’s a thrill.
Finishing rehearsals with a short concert for friends and family to give us a dry run before the event and put it all together. The couple of surprises that cropped up (there are always surprises that never happened before—that’s part of the excitement of live performance) were enough to keep them focused for the twelve days we will be apart before gathering in St. John’s on Wednesday. Our friends and family said, “You sound wonderful, now go have fun!”, which is exactly what we intend to do!
This trip has been three years in the making for us and I have to say that we are surprised how truly excited we are to go. Our cohesion and musical beauty as the Small Choir has been a reward in itself. The Festival will just be the icing on the cake. Look out Newfoundland!
The Beat Magazine reviewed Saturday night’s performance of Missa Gaia / Earth Mass:
Understanding of and familiarity with a Mozart or Palestrina mass is one thing; then there is Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia or Earth Mass, which is an exhilarating admixture of liturgical and esophical norms, celebrating Gaia, a heathen deity and now symbol for all that is part of this planet’s primordial causality. For some, a mass that celebrates a Greek goddess is nothing short of sacrilege and might be better suited in a pagan/druidical setting rather than inside St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City on Mother’s Day, for example, where Winter’s mass had its origins. Paul Winter is the chief architect of this opus while depending on friends for their musical contributions including those of organist and composer Paul Halley, who spent some of his younger years in Canada.
KSS finished off its subscription season with a heartfelt presentation of Missa Gaia / Earth Mass last night. Scroll down to enjoy some photo memories from the concert. Above and below, Karen warms up the choir before the show.
Before the music starts, Karen introduces this phenomenal work, which celebrates planet earth an all the creatures on it.
And the music begins…
Guest soloist Paul Grambo rocked the house with the energetic Beatitudes.
Other stellar musicians included pianist Steve Holowitz, sax player David Wiffen, Margaret Stowe on guitar, Steve Clark on bass, and organist Ronald Fox. Percussionists Rob Larose and Alfredo Caxaj thrill the crowd in Ubi Caritas, below.
The incomparable Denise Pelley held the audience spellbound with her moving interpretations of Mystery and His Eye is on the Sparrow.
At least one audience member was overheard to say “I don’t want to leave,” after the concert was finished.
Special guests from Salthaven Rehabilitation and Education Centre, our partner for this concert, were waiting to greet our patrons at the after-concert reception. Below is a barn owl – rare in this part of Canada – and his young handler.
Brian Salt, founder of Salthaven, introduces another “animal ambassador,” a red-tailed hawk. During the winter he visits schools and service groups, educating people about the amazing work that Salthaven does.
Another raptor guest enchants concert-goers, below. Founded 25 years ago, Salthaven rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife, and is currently working on a capital fundraising campaign for a new, $2.5 million clinic that will allow them to admit virtually all the animals that they get calls about each year. They are currently able to admit only about 20% animals that are brought to their attention.
Please visit the Salthaven website – www.salthaven.org – to learn more about the vital work that this organization does. Be sure to check out the photo gallery of patients, and read the many heartwarming stories of animals rescued, treated and released back into their natural habitats.
KSS recently asked former Missa Gaia / Earth Mass choristers for their favorite memories of this unforgettable work. Here are some of their responses:
“I remember our first Missa Gaia/Earth Mass performance in 1994, how thrilling it was to sing this work and how much it touched the audience. I also remember what happened at the end of Return to Gaia. This movement is a soprano sax and organ duet intended to evoke the wonder of the Earth as seen from space, and the safe return of the spacecraft back to Earth. It was not quite a soft landing. At the climax of the piece, with George Laidlaw on sax and Angus Sinclair on organ, holding down notes with all ten fingers and both feet, the organ completely ran out of air. That’s when folks at Wesley-Knox decided it was time to have the organ rebuilt. (It was rebuilt, quite magnificently, in 1996.)”
“Missa Gaia was the first memorable work I sang with KSS. The choir was called The Village Singers then. I have enjoyed singing it more each time – particularly our times away in Detroit! It brings everyone together!”
“I first heard Missa Gaia when the then Village Singers performed it in St. Thomas. I immediately fell in love with the piece, and approached Karen after the concert to ask her if the choir was ever going to do it again. She said yes, the following year in May as well. I asked when the auditions were – had to join the choir to sing this fabulous piece of music. Been there ever since! My favorite part to sing is the Sanctus and Benedictus… love the rhythm!”
From a chorister who is also a member of Wesley-Knox United Church:
“My favourite parts of Missa Gaia are the organ solo and the choruses where the audience participates – they always seem too short. The organ piece is fairly long, as I recall, and it builds from quiet to very loud and powerful, like a huge thunderstorm, and then gradually passes back to peaceful reflection. I guess because the organ is an integral part of Wesley-Knox, and because the organ was re-built and enhanced during my time there, it represents the power and the solidity of our church and congregation.”
From a husband and wife who have sung Missa Gaia several times:
“The first time we performed Missa Gaia, the organ had just been restored and the piece about the trip to space was spine tingling, as the organ swelled to its crescendo. That is something I’ll never forget. My favorite piece is Agnus Dei. The music is so moving and beautiful as it moves majestically thru the piece. When we went to Detroit, the bass section of their choir were intially quite blasé about the whole thing. But as they filed out at the intermission I heard them say, ‘This is really something, isn’t it?’ We both love to sing Missa Gaia, and have been holding our breath that we could do so again. Hurray!”
“My most memorable performance was at St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica in downtown London. Several parishioners at the Basilica had become convinced that Missa Gaia was a pagan, not a Christian work, and they picketed the concert. Karen was a bit upset with this, but we told her not to worry. We told her you couldn’t buy publicity like this. The concert, which featured liturgical dancers choreographed by London’s Anna Douthwright and Carla de Sola from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, was a sellout.
“Another memorable performance was at Christ Church Episcopal in Detroit. A few days before that concert, Denise Pelley’s son, Jason Edmonds, had been killed in a tragic car accident. Denise still sang the concert. All we could do was marvel at her inner strength.”
“I sang Missa Gaia at least three times, including once in Detroit, plus the recording session at St. James Westminster. The most memorable detail about going to Detroit was that Denise Pelley travelled on the bus with the choir just three or four days after the funeral for her son, Jason, who had been killed in a traffic accident in London. Denise’s tremendous will and spirit overcame obvious sorrow and allowed her to perform her role in a moving, convincing performance. What a wonderful person!”
“I heard Missa Gaia and simply had to perform it. I especially remember the time in Detroit after Denise’s son died, and being awestruck by her strength.”
I first heard Missa Gaia / Earth Mass in 1999 or 1998. I was singing in another of Karen Schuessler’s choirs at the time, and Karen invited me to a Missa Gaia dress rehearsal because I had never heard the work before, and I couldn’t make it to the actual concert.
I was spellbound.
I joined KSS as an alto for the 1999-2000 season, and one of the highlights of my musical life has been learning and performing Missa Gaia, and participating in the KSS Missa Gaia recording. This work, which celebrates our relationship to the earth and all its creatures, almost defies description… but I’m going to try.
Canticle of Brother Sun
The concert opens with Canticle of Brother Sun, which uses the words of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. “All praise be yours through Brother Sun, all praise be yours through Sister Moon…” The chorus paraphrases a quote from the book of Job in the Bible: “Ask of the beasts, and they shall teach you the beauty of the earth.” To this day, every time I hear the text, my eyes fill with tears.
What also struck me about this song, and many of the others in the Missa Gaia suite, was its uptempo fusion of jazz and world beat-inspired rhythms. If, when the song ends, you wish it would continue, don’t worry – it’s reprised at the end of the show. The following video gives you just a sample its charms:
If Canticle of Brother Sun got my toes tapping, the beginning of the Kyrie initially stunned me. The silence is pierced by a recording of a wolf howling. A saxophone then plays the exact same notes – making haunting music of the animal’s call! The wolf howls again… and this time a tenor’s voice sings the notes, to the Greek words kyrie and eleison, which mean “Lord have mercy.”
In the Christian mass, the Kyrie underscores humankind’s need for redemption; in Missa Gaia, Paul Halley’s Kyrie poignantly underscores our fellow creatures’ plight at our own hands. Towards the end of the song the music swells after an instrumental solo, and every time I sang this part, I felt a sense of urgency at our planet’s future.
The video below features a 1982 recording of the Kyrie:
The Beatitudes is probably one of my favorite pieces from the entire show. A moody introduction gives way to complex gospel harmonies interweaving with a male vocal solo, and the song ends with multiple repeats of a driving, double-time refrain.
More than anything else, it was the clapping that originally attracted me to this gospel tune. There’s a stunning moment right at the end when the instruments cut out and the choir continues a capella, accompanied only by its own clapping. I was thrilled when, after joining the choir, Karen chose me to be one of the designated “clappers.”
During our 2000 recording session, Karen went to listen to the result after the first take of Beatitudes, and came back with the pronouncement that the claps were too loud, and not precise enough. (It’s not as easy as you think to clap and sing synchopated rhythms at the same time!) The ranks of the clappers were reduced to five, and we were given strict instructions to keep a close eye on each other during the next take, to make sure that we were in unison.
I was standing in the front row with the rest of the clappers behind me, so I half-turned to include them in my peripheral vision, and sang the entire take from memory, never taking my eyes off the hands of one of the tenor clappers. Karen immediately disappeared to the temporary “recording booth” set up in our recording venue, St. James Westminster Anglican Church, and came back with the good news: That take would do. Good thing, because all of that clapping had left my hands raw.
The video below is the only recording of the piece that I can find on YouTube. Most of it is much slower than our own performances and recording, but it gives you an idea of the excitement of the ending:
Mystery is a haunting folk song by an American physician, Jeremy R. Geffen – an integrative cancer care specialist whose holistic practices are informed by the healing traditions of the world, including Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, yoga, meditation, and other approaches to health and self-awareness.
The lyrics speak of the divine in a way that can be embraced by many faiths:
But when I listen deep inside, I feel you best of all.
Like a moon that’s glowing white, and I listen to your call.
And I know that you will guide me, I feel you like the tide
rushing through the ocean of my heart that’s open wide.
As sung by Denise Pelley, the song is a highlight of Missa Gaia for many listeners.
Return to Gaia
An instrumental piece, Return to Gaia, is another audience favorite, since it features the full power of the venue’s pipe organ. The song is meant to suggest the thrill of seeing dawn creep across the face of the earth as viewed from space.
“The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone, our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.” Aleksei Leonov, Russian astronaut
“My first view – a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white – was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing – I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.” Charles Walker, US astronaut
Sanctus and Benedictus, and Promise of a Fisherman
Sanctus and Benedictus features the eerie song of the male humpback whale. Hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, the humpback whale has made a comeback in the world’s oceans, but is still at risk from entanglement in fishing nets, collision with ships, and underwater noise pollution from offshore drilling.
Both Sanctus and Promise of a Fisherman use the joyous rhythms of Brazilian music, and I’m afraid I could never stand still whenever I sang either of them. One of the things I love most about the animal calls and the music of Missa Gaia is that they seem to permeate every cell of your body, so that you leave the concert feeling fundamentally changed.
The video below shows a live performance of Sanctus and Benedictus:
Without a doubt, Ubi Caritas is one of my all-time favorite choral pieces ever. I have had the pleasure of singing it not only several times with KSS, but also with a mass choir in a South London choral festival, and at the Church of St. Timothy in North Toronto with the incomparable Joe Sealy Trio.
Ubi Caritas begins with a well-known Gregorian chant, which fades to a quiet piano solo that swells and ebbs like waves on a lonely beach. Then, in one of those quintessential moments that composer Paul Halley is known for, the mood turns on a dime with the introduction of African drumming, and the chorus comes back in with a traditional African chant. Many times I have thrilled to watch percussionists Rob Larose and Dale Brendon intently ply the skins of their drums as the song builds to a thundering crescendo, accented by the counterpoint of the Latin and Yoruban singing.
The video below includes the piece in its thrilling entirety:
The evening comes to a close with a prayer from the traditional Christian mass: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.”
In this song we hear the call of the harp seal – the animal which Moravian missionaries in Labrador used to explain the concept of the Lamb of God to the Inuit, who had never seen sheep. Seal hunting continues to be a controversial animal rights issue, and images of seal pups mercilessly bludgeoned for their pure white fur during annual seal hunts are forever burned into our cultural memory.
There are songs I haven’t mentioned: For the Beauty, Sound Over All Waters, Blue-Green Hills of Earth… each with their own moments to savour and hold dear. Missa Gaia is a work designed to transform its listeners (and its performers), then release them into the world to spread the energy of life and hope. I’ll be sitting in the audience on June 4, eager to hear the animals speak once again. I hope you will join us.
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow has been KSS’ Director of Communications for the past two years. She was also a chorister for our 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 concert seasons.
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