2013 April-A Diminished Mass

A Diminished Mass by Alan A Craig.

together with anthems by John Rutter & Bob Chilcott

In April 2013, the choir performed a newly created Mass by Alan A Craig at St Monica’s RC Church in Flixton and at St Weburgh’s in Chorlton, Manchester.  Alan Craig, John Rutter & Bob Chilcott acknowledged our work by signing a coy of our performance programme.

Diminished Mass signed programme  003

Background to the Work

Alan A. Craig is a graduate of the music department of the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde.  He combines work as a freelance musician with his role as Director of Music at Glasgow’s Langside College.  His output unashamedly aims to engage a wide spectrum of listeners through familiar musical language.

“A Diminished Mass” goes back to 1999, when Alan was commissioned to write a Kyrie and Gloria for the 50th Anniversary of the Helensburgh Dorian Choir.  Following suggestions that these should be expanded into the full setting of a Mass, the complete work gradually took shape over the next few years.  The final catalyst came when Archbishop Mario Conti approached the composer with a view to its premier being included in the celebrations for the re-opening of Glasgow’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral in 2011.

Craig sets the five texts of the Mass continuously and the careful listener will hear several recurring themes which serve to unify the musical structure.  In keeping with its plea from mercy, the opening Kyrie is mainly sombre, building to a climax before returning to the baritone solo with which it opened.  By contrast, most of the Gloria is joyful and dance-like, with a more lyrical mezzo-soprano solo at its centre.

Holding together a text of the sheer length and variety of the Credo text has long been a challenge to composers.  They key to this setting lies in the meditative opening, parts of which melody are transformed in different ways to make up all the other conspicuous themes in the section.  Its final Amen merges into a gentle reminiscence of the main Gloria theme which heralds the Sanctus – surely one of the most beautiful passages in the entire work.  This section is completed by a jazzy, ebullient Hosanna and a gentle Benedictus featuring the tenor and baritone soloists.

A brief allusion to the Hosanna theme links into the Agnus Dei and a return to the more penitential manner of the Kyrie.  Finally, from an impassioned climax on the last appearance of “miserere nobis”,  the music falls back into a relective coda in which the prayer for peace recalls the opening of the work.

The programme for the evening was conducted by Julie Parker and included:-

A Diminished Mass – Alan A Craig – Soloists – Charlotte Morley (soprano), Katharine Brown (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Keens (tenor), Maurice Rushby (baritone), Ken Seal (percussion) and Gareth Curtis (piano).

All things bright and beautiful  – John Rutter

For the beauty of the earth – John Rutter

When daisies pied – Thomas Arne    &  A bay in Anglesey – Madeleine Dring performed by Katharine Brown (Mezzo-Soprano) and Charles Parker (Clarinet).

The Lord’s my shepherd – Bob Chilcott

Arm, arm ye brave – George Frederick Handel and Sea Fever – John Ireland performed by Maurice Rushby (Baritone).

Sing you now – Bob Chilcott

The singing of birds – Bob Chilcott

Look at the World – John Rutter

The Lord bless you and keep you – John Rutter