'A remarkable work.’   MusicWeb International

Instrumentation

double SATB and organ

Availability

Score 0-571-53696-4 on sale 

Programme Notes

My Bell Mass was requested by the Director of Music at Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell to mark the 450th anniversary of the Abbey’s Collegiate Charter. It is a missa brevis, omitting the Credo. The five movements are Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei. The moods of each movement were closely prompted by the sounds, meanings and implications of the texts. The Kyrie features clear lines and polyphony on the voices, separated by organ interludes. The Gloria explores the exuberance and celebration of the Latin text, culminating in a free-for-all on the concluding Amen. The Sanctus is ceremonial and massive, with another free-for-all outburst on the Osanna in excelsis, followed by a becalmed ending. The Benedictus is very still, as if enacting a very old sacred rite, with bare solo chants accompanied by drones and chords from the rest of the choir. The Agnus Dei starts in a mood of quiet introspection and prayer, developing into a dance-like middle section and finally working round to a point of rest. Throughout the composition of this work, bells – their sonorities, overtones and the tradition of change-ringing – were very much in my mind. Many phrases (such as the opening) start with a clear, bell-style accent, and much of the harmony in the work was derived from listening closely to bells, including those of Westminster Abbey. The Bell Mass is dedicated both to James O’Donnell, and to the memory of my former school chaplain, Rev. Willie Booth.

Julian Anderson

Reviews

'Bell Mass, a five-part “missa brevis” composed for Westminster Abbey, and an acoustically self-aware essay like so many by Anderson, builds the resonance of the cathedral’s bells into the texture in precise detail, to rich effect…’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 17 August 2018

‘This is a fascinating disc and shows Anderson to have real flair as a composer of choral music… The Gloria [of the Bell Mass] starts straight in, without any intonation by the priest; its leaping lines are reminiscent of Tippett. The Sanctus is exultant but also remote and unearthly, with passages of dazzling brightness and jagged lines on the organ… The Agnus begins with stuttering fragments, like some of late Stravinsky, and there is something of Messiaen in the winding organ line too. It gathers strength to become a vocal version of a peal of bells before the sopranos disappear into the heavens. This is a remarkable work…’
MusicWeb International (Stephen Barber), 16 January 2019

'In his Bell Mass Anderson has written a work which will take its place in the British choral tradition not just because of its inherent qualities; it's also eminently practical, its modernisms and choir-and-organ scoring well within the range of most competent church choirs and its duration, 17 minutes, trying nobody's patience.  People should soon be singing this piece up and down this land and many others.' 
Tempo (Martin Anderson), October 2010

Bell Mass

St Bride's Church, Fleet Street (London, United Kingdom)

Robert Jones, Choir of St Bride's, Fleet Street

Bell Mass

Afternoon Concert

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Stephen Farr, BBC Singers, Nicholas Kok

Bell Mass

St Giles-without-Cripplegate (London, United Kingdom)

BBC Singers, Nicholas Kok

Bell Mass

(concert performance)

St James's Church, Sussex Gardens (London, United Kingdom)

Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber

Bell Mass

Gonville and Caius College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)

Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber