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ANDREW WILSON: ANNUNCIATION MASS Opus 150

 

The Kelly Choral Society’s programme for March 24th 2012 consists of two works never before sung by the choir: Schubert’s Deutsche Messe and Andrew Wilson’s 2nd Mass setting, his Annunciation Mass Opus 150, specially written for the society in order to celebrate his 20th anniversary as KCS’s Musical Director. Andrew’s first Mass the Missa Brevis Opus 112, was composed in 2007 for the South West Chamber Choir, who gave the first performance in Tavistock Parish Church and elsewhere including a liturgical performance in Brecon Cathedral for the new bishop’s first Eucharist in May 2008. This was a concise a capella setting but the composer found the experience of working with the ancient Latin texts so rewarding, he was eager to try a different, and much more extended, accompanied Mass. When it was decided to programme the Schubert, with its unusual instrumentation of oboes, clarinets, horns, bassoons and organ the opportunity presented itself to compose a new Mass for just the same forces. The title of the Mass also came about by happy coincidence: Annunciation would normally fall on March 25th, however, since that is the Fifth Sunday of Lent in 2012, the celebration of Annunciation is transferred to the day before, Saturday March 24, 2012, the very day of the first performance. With this in mind the composer has tried to reflect the events of the story of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary in Nazareth, to announce that she would become the Mother of Christ. This idea is revealed in several ways in the work and the focus is deliberately drawn towards the angelic parts of the text: the Gloria in Excelsis (the song of the Angels sang to the shepherds at Christ’s birth) and the Sanctus where the choir “join the Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, forever praising thee and singing: Holy, Holy, Holy”.

 

The Kyrie is a mainly contemplative movement based on the opening motif of the oboes and clarinets which frames a more impassioned middle section setting “Christe eleison” (“Christ have Mercy”).

In the next movement, the Gloria, the juxtaposition of 5 and 3 beat metres push the music on with ever more energy.

The Credo is declaimed by the Baritone soloist: unusually, the chorus only sings one word in this movement “credo”- “I believe” repeated after each of the soloist’s statements of faith.

A flurry of angelic fanfares ushers in the next movement: Sanctus. These seem to approach nearer and nearer until the trills at the end blaze in heavenly light.

Material from the opening Kyrie reappears in the last movement highlighting the similarities of the texts: both prayers imploring God’s mercy on mankind.

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