Missa in incerto tempore (The Davison Mass) (2018)
for SATB Chorus, Men's Chorus, and Two Organs (opt. One Organ)
Text from the Ordinary of the Mass (Latin)
- Sanctus and Benedictus
- Agnus Dei
Duration: 20 min.
Commission: Commissioned by the Harvard Glee Club
Missa in incerto tempore (The Davison Mass) (2018) was commissioned by the Harvard Glee Club. It was premiered by the Harvard Glee Club, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Andrew Clark, Director of Choral Activities) and the All Saints’ Choir of Men and Boys (Ashmont Boy Choir), Dorchester, Massachusetts; (Andrew Sheranian, Organist and Master of Choristers).
The English title honors Archibald T. Davison (1883–1961), the first conductor of the Harvard Glee Club. Before he joined the Harvard faculty, Davison was organist at the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont. The Harvard Glee Club and its alumni foundation developed the Archibald T. Davison Fellowship program to strengthen ties between the boys of the Ashmont choir and the men of Harvard Glee Club in the present era. This musical work was commissioned to celebrate this partnership and to allow the two choirs to perform together in music that could be used liturgically at All Saints and in concert at Harvard.
The Latin title, meaning “Mass in uncertain times,” refers to the centuries of comfort, inspiration, and spiritual enrichment that the mass (and the musical settings for its celebration) has provided to many individuals through difficulty and uncertainty. I cannot deny that the “times” in which this piece was composed are the most nationally and internationally “uncertain” of my own life to date. That fact had a definite impact on the tone and emotional character of the piece. However, there is a universality as well, since one could readily feel that all times have a sense of uncertainty, especially since we never know exactly what the future holds. The first three movements have somewhat enigmatic endings. The end of the “Agnus Dei” tries to temper (but not erase) that uncertainty with a degree of optimism and fervor in a passionate plea of “Dona nobis pacem.”
Musically, the work explores the duality possible with the two choirs (and two organs); thus they are used separately, in close alternation, and in combination.