For Solo Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra
Even in an oeuvre as dominated by choral music as Paul Patterson’s, the Millennium Mass occupies a unique position. Commissioned jointly by Southwell Minster and the Orchestra of St. John’s, Smith Square, this work catches Patterson in an unusually contemplative frame of mind as the human race prepares to straddle two millennia. Of course, the ebulliently celebratory Patterson is present, too, especially in the Gloria and the Sanctus, but by and large, the tone of voice is quieter and calmer, which comes in marked contrast to more vigorously festive recent works such as the Magnificat (1993) and the Gloria written in 1998 for the Saddleworth Festival
The opening Kyrie seems set in quietly suspended animation as the chorus quietly, gently sounds its entreaties. The note G is sounded throughout the movement, like a sonic scarlet thread, as the rest of the music weaves its way above, under and around it. The temperature rises but once, to a sonorous but short-lived climax. Otherwise, this state of quiet suspension persists to the end. The Gloria vigorously breaks in, with the forcefully dancing rhythms that are a hallmark of Patterson in a celebratory mood. A quieter middle section acts as a temporary oasis of respite before the music vigorously pushes to its affirmative end. After this display of high spirits, the Credo introduces a more meditative note to the proceedings, starting as a quiet, leisurely dialogue between the solo soprano and the chorus as the life of Christ is recounted. The pace eventually quickens and the textures grow airier, before the atmosphere darkens at crucifixus etiam pro nobis. After a subdued start, et resurrexit builds to an imposing climax as the music describes Christ sitting to his Father’s right side. Upon its cessation, the opening returns in all its tranquillity. A new theme appears at the end, on the words et exspecto resurrectioniem mortuorum; a theme which will reappear in the Benedictus. A quiet, formal Amen brings the movement to a close. The Sanctus bursts in, all blazing C major and Handelian grandeur, and it maintains its ceremonial splendour to its closing bars. The ensuing Benedictus returns to the gentler, more entreating world of the Credo, indeed returning to the movement’s closing theme, before it, too, powers its way to a brilliant C major ending.
With the Agnus Dei, there is a sense of things coming full circle, as the movement’s thematic material harks back to the Kyrie, and its concluding section, over a pedal F, reinforces the two movements’ kinship. But the atmosphere has changed. Whereas the Kyrie was all hushed expectancy, here only beatific peace reigns, as the quiet choral implorations of Dona nobis pacem bring the Mass to its end, the music gazing heavenwards.
Two versions of the Mass have been devised: one with orchestra, the other with organ only. [The orchestral version calls for modest forces: 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 trumpets, timpani, organ and strings] In addition to the chorus, a solo soprano (alternatively a treble) plays a substantial role in the Credo as well as bringing the Mass to an end in the Agnus Dei’s closing bars.
Programme note by Paul Pellay
Hanover Choir of London / David Pipe, organ / Huw Morgan, director
Chorus and Orchestra
Soprano/SATB/0.2.0.1/0.2.0.0/Timp/Org/Strings (or SATB-Organ)
Commission: The Orchestra of St John’s Smith Square and Southwell Minster Choir
Dedication: ‘To John Schofield’
Publisher: Josef Weinberger