Music Director’s Notes

Good evening, and welcome to Etobicoke Centennial Choir’s first in-person concert since December 2019. We are thrilled to be back on stage in front of a live audience again. Tonight we present two very different versions of the Mass, one from the early 19th century by Ludwig van Beethoven, and another from the late 20th century by Steve Dobrogosz. Although these pieces are very different in style, they share a singular quality, in that they are both effervescent and uplifting. We also will present the Easter Hymn from Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, as a tribute to our recently departed friend and patron, Father Edward Jackman.

Beethoven’s Mass in C, opus 86, was written for Count Nikolaus Esterhazy II in 1807, the same year Beethoven began writing his monumental 5th Symphony. Both works were first presented to the general public at the same concert in December of 1808. Exuberant, and joyful in its overall effect, this Mass is filled with innovative writing, imaginative treatment of harmony, unusual handling of text and evocative use of word painting — in short, Beethoven in full stride.

The opening Kyrie, is striking in its gentle and tender lyricism. The movement affords the quartet of soloists, and choir, ample opportunity to explore the sensitive and nuanced treatment of the text. The Gloria, by comparison, thunders in with a splash, before settling into an exploration of plaintive solos, alternating with vivid choral responses. This movement contains a hauntingly beautiful treatment of the text “qui tollis peccata mundi” (thou that takest away the sins of the world), before giving way to the chilling harmonies of the “miserere nobis” (have mercy upon us). A lively fugal treatment of “tu solus sanctus” (thou only art holy) ensues, with an extended “amen,” replete with Beethoven’s signature musical surprises. Beethoven’s treatment of the Credo (I believe), is forthright and earnest. This movement is marked by quick shifts in dynamics and textures, from gentle passages to heightened outbursts of impassioned singing, all of which are wholly a result of Beethoven’s use of word painting. The Sanctus begins in deep and quiet reverence, as an introduction to a pair of spirited fugues. The Benedictus, contained in this movement, weaves a beautiful interplay between the soloists and the choir, in one of the more reverential moments of the entire work. Concluding with Agnus Dei, the setting here begins decidedly darkly, to express the text “miserere” (have mercy on us). In a slow unfolding from dark to light, Beethoven paints the words “dona nobis pacem” (grant us peace) in bright sunshine, only to finally return to the gentle lyricism of the opening, to conclude the entire work.

Steve Dobrogosz took a decidedly contemporary route in composing his Mass, in 1992. Scored for strings, piano and choir, many musical styles are accessed. One can hear strains of jazz, blues and pop music, in both the rhythms and harmonic language. Here also, each movement has a much more singular approach than Beethoven used. Despite this, word painting is also an important feature of Dobrogosz’ treatment of the text. The string writing is often sumptuous, and the interplay between piano, strings and choir forms a salient feature of many of the musical textures.

The Kyrie, in contrast to Beethoven’s, is driving, forceful, and infused with dynamic rhythm. The style of the Gloria is diametrically opposed to that of Beethoven’s, being quiet, introspective and decidedly dark. The Credo returns to the dynamism of the Kyrie, now incorporating angular and chromatic melodies and harmonies. The opening of Dobrogosz’ Sanctus movement, again, stands in sharp contrast to Beethoven’s. Its tempo is quick, and the choir’s statements are forcefully articulated. There is a strong sense of searching and exploration in the music here, and this movement ends with a powerful reiteration of the text, “Sanctus” (Holy). The Agnus Dei, then concludes the entire Mass by peacefully floating, ever more gently, until it fades away.

Henry Renglich


Translations

— Mass in C Major —

Ludwig van Beethoven

Kyrie

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Gloria

Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.
We praise thee, we bless thee,
we worship thee, we glorify thee,
we give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
art most high in the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

Credo

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord,
Jesus Christ,
Only begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds.
God of God, light of light,
Very God of very God.
Begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father:
by whom all things were made.
Who for us men
and for our salvation
came down from heaven.

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary:
And was made man.

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate:
suffered, and was buried.

And the third day He rose again
according to the scriptures.
And ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father
And He shall come again
with glory to judge the living and the dead:
His kingdom shall have no end.

And (I believe in) the Holy Ghost, Lord
and giver of life:
Who proceedeth from the Father and Son.
Who with the Father and Son
together is worshipped and glorified:
Who spake by the Prophets.

And in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
I acknowledge one baptism
for the remission of sins.
And I look for the resurrection of the dead
And the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Source: Wikipedia

— Easter Hymn, from Cavalleria Rusticana —

Pietro Mascagni

O Queen of heaven, be joyful, alleluia,
For He whom you have humbly borne for us, alleluia,
Has arisen, as He promised, alleluia,
Offer now our prayer to God, alleluia.

Rejoice, the Lord is not dead
And, we mourn no longer Instead,
we exalt the risen Lord
For, today He has risen in all His glory!