Whitehead has always had an affinity with the music of the sixteenth century, for three years she sang in Peter Godfrey’s choir at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Auckland, where the repertoire included Byrd’s four part mass. This experience meant that the writing of this work came naturally. Written while studying in Wellington, the Mass is one of the first of her works that Gillian heard performed; the Victoria University choir conducted by Robert Oliver sang selected movements, while its first complete performance, in an otherwise ‘all Bach’ concert by the Leonine Consort in Sydney, was broadcast on television. The reviewer of this concert, Roger Covell, wrote ‘Gillian Whitehead’s Missa Brevis easily rose to the challenge of justifying its presence, (showing) rare understanding of how to write for concerted voices; everything she calculated on paper worked in practice in this tenderly beautiful performance’. (Programme note by Emma Carle and Jack Body).