Missa Brevis

Conductor Notes:

I first heard this piece in 1988 sung by the women in the Canadian National Youth Choir and I immediately thought of Elektra. Written for three-part treble chorus, it’s a wonderful Missa Brevis, filled with excellent teaching opportunities and challenges while also being very aware of what brings joy to a singer. The Kyrie offers opportunities for unison tuning, balancing tonal clusters, giving equal weight to contrapuntal entrances, adapting to multiple rhythmic changes. Using lots of contrapuntal interest through entrances and textured layers, the Gloria also moves at times in exuberant parallel triads and octaves which makes this movement exciting to sing and delightful to hear. The Sanctus is an excellent exercise in controlled singing and tuning while the Agnus Dei requires sensitive refinement both in creating seamless unison lines and singing a beautiful legato phrase. The overall tessitura for all three parts seems to be continuously comfortable which makes this piece an excellent choice for any age treble choir(Note by Diane Loomer).

Note: The recording on this site is the Kyrie, but the whole mass is available on the Elektra CD “Classic Elektra” and available on iTunes.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

Although I was actuallly supposed to be working on a commissoned work at the time, I felt such a strong urge to compose the Missa Brevis that I set the other music aside and quickly wrote the Missa Brevis. I could hear the colours and musical details vividly right from the first moment. There has been some beautiful music written to this text over the centuries but I could hear much more than beauty in the ageless text. This is apparent in the urgency of the opening sections of the Kyrie, the close matching of various emotions and words as they dance their way through the Gloria (yes, I have a background in dance), the feeling of boundless space in the Sanctus (certainly affected by twentieth century exploration of space) and the illuminating “halo effect” in the Agnus Dei. I sent the music off for publication and I think that about thirty choirs had performed it in various parts of the country before I ever heard it performed.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.




Standard mass text.