This work was composed for the Peking Opera of Santa Cruz and the Saint Cecilia Society. The Society promotes the preservation and restoration of Gregorian chant. Although Harrison's mass is monophonic — some movements are sung by women only, some men only, some antiphonal, some all sing — he greatly expands on the Gregorian chant style and gives it a more exotic flavor by eliminating one pitch from the customary 7-note scales and modes.
Said Harrison, "Most of the sections will sound well supported by drones. Some will sound well with a harp figuration as well as drones. It is understood that these drones ought to be spread out into several octaves, softly, and that the figurations, too, should be played in at least two octaves, more if the choir is large."
This critical edition by Nicole Paiement includes both editorial and performance notes, along with suggested instruments to be used for the drones/ostinato and rhythmic punctuations. Says Paiement: "Harrison always welcomed the performer as a collaborator in the compositional process. In fact, this edition is rooted in this philosophy. Though I discussed with the composer my general ideas of interpretation found in this edition, much of the final decisions were made after his death. In order to remain as close to Harrisons esthetic as possible, I consulted many of his choral works."
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