Missa Gaia/Earth Mass – Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8 PM

silouhette of a wolf in the forest - Missa Gaia / Earth Mass



The silver sound of a soprano saxophone echoes the haunting four-note call of a female tundra wolf. The theme of the Alaskan wolf, a species which has existed for 30 million years, is taken up by the choir with the words, “Kyrie eleison”, which are Greek for “Lord, have mercy”. This is the spirit that inspires the choral work “Missa Gaia/Earth Mass” (Gaia is Greek for Earth).

Written in 1981 for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City to celebrate Mother Earth, Missa Gaia is both ecumenical and ecological, reflecting jazz saxophonist Paul Winter’s desire to create a mass “which would embrace all the voices of the Earth”. This it does by including soloists, a seven-piece jazz ensemble, world percussion from different cultures, the voices of whales, loons, harp seals, wolves, a choir and the audience.

Surrounding and interlacing four traditional movements of the mass: the Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are several stirring pieces, ranging from Brazilian folksong and swinging gospel to traditional styles and Gregorian chant, which speak of the beauty of our ancient home and our interconnectedness with all of Creation.

Soloist Denise Pelley needs no introduction to London audiences. A vocalist of rare talent and beauty, she has been part of the Missa Gaia performances from the beginning. Paul Grambo adds his unique gospel style to the work. For this special 25th Anniversary performance, KSS will be joined by the Youth and Senior choirs of Wesley-Knox Church—over 100 voices.

The rich variety of voices and styles mirror the truth that our Earth is made up of tremendous diversity. As the varied musical parts come together powerfully to reflect the greater whole, this unique work is about reclaiming the ancient knowledge that our world is a sacred place.

New Celebration Dance is a descendant of the Celebration Dance Company founded and led by Anna Douthwright in London until her death in 2002. The Celebration Dance Company teamed with Karen Schuessler in the production of Missa Gaia at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1996.

New Celebration Dance has been dancing since 2004 with the leadership of Greg Smith who was part of the original Celebration Dance Company. New Celebration Dance seeks to use the art form of sacred dance as a means of giving expression to the spiritual lives of the dancers and of contributing to spiritual elements of public occasions. They have provided sacred dance and movement to the London AIDS Vigil, Community Winter Solstice and Earth Day events, and liturgical moments at the former Christ Anglican Church in London, including celebrations of Black History Month.

Currently, New Celebration Dance includes dancers: Valerie Brennan, Madeline Campbell, Ria Caro, Peggy Geotz, Thea Hiemstra, Jenni Prenger, Greg Smith, Carol Talbot, Gloria Thomson, Gaye Whippey.