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World Premiere (as Mass for Children's Voices): October 18, 1981. Boys Choir of Harlem, Walter Turnbull, conducting, Church of the Intercession, New York City. Premiere with women's voices: April 13, 1978. Juilliard Women's Chorus, Larry Alan Smith, conducting, The Juilliard School, New York City.
The Mass, originally entitled Mass for Children's Voices, was conceived as a children's plea for world peace. "In choosing the Latin text of the Mass," the composer explains, "I felt that the nature of its message best expressed the universal emotions and aspirations of mankind, in a concise and poetic manner. The Mass is at once a traditional structure, and an abstract form that composers have shaped to their own individual expressions through the ages."
While the work is set in a contemporary style, influenced by rock and folk rock, it also retains elements of traditional chorale writing and unison chant. The four cellos fill in the tenor and bass registers, complementing the choir of sopranos and altos, while the piano adds a percussive element into the mix of sustained voices and instruments. "It is my hope," the composer states, "that this work can stand as a symbol for the aspirations of today's youngest generation for a peaceful world to come."
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