Anya Schutz / Courtesy of the artist
When young composers replay old formulas, exciting things can happen. Sarah Kirkland Snyder is arrested Mass for the Threatened Released September 25 – It is a 21st century development of the Catholic liturgy, which has been sung in the churches for more than 1,300 years.
Snyder, who was not raised Catholic, fell in love with sacred choir music as a child in New Jersey, singing in the Princeton High School choir. Now, the composer, who is not yet forty, has presented her first major choral work, shining with layered vocals of an unfamiliar beauty.
Snider’s 45-minute six-part action is designed according to standard block, with sections titled Kyrie, Gloria, Agnus Dei, etc. In the doctrine section, members of the meticulously balanced British Galicantus chorus sing, “We believe in everyone who is silenced” – but they do not sing about the human condition as they do in traditional mass. Mass for the Threatened It is a prayer for the fauna of our planet and its surroundings; The focus here is not on God but on nature itself.
The author cunningly mixes the standard liturgy with the new texts of the poet Nathaniel Bellows. In an outdated call and response, loud voices sing, “Don’t take a tooth or a fang… No shark’s skin is stolen from his skin,” while the low-pitched voices are intertwined in Latin.
Musically speaking, the Snider does not open any new ground. You can learn about the traces of Gregorian hymns and the complex Renaissance style of Giovanni Palestrina, for example. And in the Sanctus section, the air is dense under the influence of contemporary mystics such as Arvo Pärt.
While wearing traditional clothes, Mass for the Threatened Not pastiche. Snyder emphasizes her musical personality as a composer who instinctively knows how to write in the human voice, as she demonstrated in two previous progressive singing cycles. Both the 12-member choir and orchestra, led by Gabrielle Crouch, respond to Snyder’s music with richly tailored performances. Hear the luminous aura effect of loud sounds, backed by subtle strings, with a long tone of Kyrie’s lockdown.
When Snyder is not writing, she manages New Amsterdam Records, from Brooklyn, which she co-founded in 2008. They are part of what is called the independent classic scene, skilled musicians with a do-it-yourself aesthetic. Through her clever and sparkling exploration of ancient musical formulas, Snider was inspired by the environment Mass for the Threatened It is a blast from the past that resonates deeply in the present.