On Sunday, October 2, during the 10:30 AM service, the Emmanuel Church Choir and guest instrumentalists will present Paul Winter's Missa Gaia (Earth Mass) in honor of the Feast of St. Francis. Commissioned in 1981 by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, the title of this work combines the Latin, "Missa," for Mass and the Greek name for Mother Earth, "Gaia." Featuring lyrical melodies with dynamic rhythms from African, Brazilian and American Gospel traditions, Missa Gaia incorporates traditional Mass and biblical texts interwoven with the voices of wolf, whale and harp seal.
When Dean Morton approached Paul Winter with the suggestion that he create twentieth century music for the Mass, Winter wondered if a Mass could celebrate the whole Earth as a sacred space. Dean Morton assured him that it could. Could the voices of our animal "colleagues" be incorporated in the music, and could the music for the Mass texts be based on themes inspired by the whale and the wolf?
"You could write a Mass on anything," said the Dean.
Missa Gaia presents a winsome plea for the sacred preservation of the Earth, our planetary home, God's creation. Echoing the words of St. Francis, Missa Gaia opens with this textual adaptation from the Canticle of Brother Sun and from Job 12:7-8:
All praise be yours through Brother Sun,
All praise be yours through Sister Moon.
By Mother Earth my Lord be praised.
By Brother Mountain, Sister Sea.
Through Brother Wind and Brother Air,
Through Sister Water, Brother Fire;
The stars above give thanks to thee;
All praise to those who live in peace.
Ask of the beasts and they shall teach you the beauty of the earth.
Ask of the trees and they shall teach you the beauty of the earth.
Ask of the winds and they shall teach you the beauty of the earth.
Ask of the flowers and they shall teach you the beauty of the earth.
Since its first presentation in 1981, Missa Gaia has become an annual tradition on the Feast of St. Francis at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and it has become a recent tradition at Emmanuel Church. We encourage you to invite your friends to join you for this special presentation. We also encourage you to bring your pets to church that morning, since we will continue the theme with a post-communion blessing of the animals.
--John Walker, Interim Director of Music