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Sarah Kirkland Snider: Mass for the Endangered

Gallicantus/Gabriel Crouch (Nonesuch)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sarah Kirkland Snider
Mass for the Endangered
Gallicantus/Gabriel Crouch
Nonesuch 7559792005   42:23 mins

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American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s vibrant, genre-bending works traverse the worlds of contemporary classical music, folk, pop and indie rock. Mass for the Endangered (2018) is Snider’s first large-scale choral work and boldly reimagines the Catholic liturgical mass as an elegy for nature. With a libretto (by Snider’s longstanding collaborator Nathaniel Bellow) which weaves in amongst the text of the Catholic Mass, the work ‘takes the Mass’s musical modes of spiritual contemplation and applies them to concern for non-human life – animals, plants and the environment.’

Snider’s lucid score is at once powerful and delicate. Written for choir and chamber ensemble, the work draws less overtly on the ‘vernacular’ vocal styles that infuse some of her earlier works, but instead finds Snider immersed in memories of singing ‘the Mozart, Brahms and Fauré Requiems along with the Palestrina and Byrd Masses, the Bach chorales’ as a student – influences which ripple alongside minimalist loops, striking harmonies and imaginative use of texture. Highlights include the meditative Gloria, where ethereal upper voices float above flowing harp counterpoint that is as intricate and exquisite as a spider’s web, and the Credo (‘We believe in stone and moss, sand and grass’) which has an almost cinematic feel with its swell of radiant, overlapping vocal lines.

Vocal ensemble Gallicantus brings vigour, colour and absolute clarity to the score, while the instrumental playing is top notch throughout. This is a luminous and arresting disc that conveys its urgent ecological message with power and beauty.

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Kate Wakeling