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At the request of Professor Peter Godfrey, this Mass setting was composed over the Christmas holiday period of 1988–1989, and received its first unofficial performance by an 'ad hoc' group of singers at the RSCM Summer School based in Auckland in January 1989. The summer school was conducted by Dr. David Hill, then Organist of Winchester Cathedral, and it was as a result of this summer school that in August 1989 I travelled to Winchester Cathedral to have an organ lesson with David Hill, after which I was offered the organ scholarship at Winchester Cathedral commencing from September 1991. Peter Godfrey introduced the work to Wellington Cathedral Choir early in 1989, and it was taken up with enthusiasm at that time – both choir and conductor had great fun with all the mixed metre rhythms! I was influenced by a desire to write a work of both harmonic and rhythmic interest. It is hard to say what inspires certain movements – I wanted the Kyrie to have something of a yearning quality, and again to utilise the generous acoustic through the opening melismatic soprano line, which is then taken up by the choir. The Gloria was to be full of vibrant rhythmic energy – a paean of praise. The Sanctus and Benedictus which follow contrast in the sense that the Sanctus is somewhat insistent in its rhythmic vitality and a relatively brief setting of the text – a peal of praise rather than an extended movement. The Benedictus is much more reflective and tender in nature – I think I would say that I had a sense of the character of the Eucharistic prayer I was writing for at that time and this was my response. The Agnus Dei uses a pedal motif and style not at all dissimilar to the Agnus Dei of Benjamin Britten's 'Missa Brevis' and deliberately so (I have always admired that movement for its ingenuity and originality). Perhaps what is unusual is the intensity of the final 'Agnus Dei' for full choir marked 'ff' – a sense of imploring was intended here, although the last two bars again reflect deliberately the Britten 'Agnus Dei' setting.
To Peter Godfrey
Performed by Richard Apperley and the Choirs of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, conducted by Michael Stewart.