Missa Profana

2008 1 hour 5 minutes
orchestra, choir, soloists (SATB)
Text Michael Harlow

Preamble to the score:

The idea has been to write a Secular Mass, or Mass of Life. The use of the secular, in the traditional sense of pro-fana, ‘in front of the temple, in the service of the spiritual. A gigantic dance of various parts or figures. It connects to the century long tradition of settings of the mass, and acknowledges this cultural heritage by use of the mediaeval song L’homme armé, which was so often used as a bonding and unifying element in Renaissance masses; our version here is realised with the central image of “with this cloak of peace/we shall arm ourselves”… And we shall ‘dance’, “dancing on one foot/the other is not forgotten”.
Our textual version is one that celebrates the light of creation which, out of the dark of sorrow, emerges as a mass of life—where ‘the light and the dark lie down together’, as it were. Following this idea, there is the symbolic (that is to say, real) play of death and life in the figures of dark and light, light and dark, musically and textually. Just as there is the One in the many, the many in the One. The light out of the dark, the dark out of the light plays as a redemptive theme—expressed variously in the spiritual force of the natural (and human) world; a Missa Natura/Missa Profana.
In our view, themes which are missing or only sparingly referred to in the liturgical text are here introduced: as in the Gloria, for example, the ‘creation of language’ [the resonance of ‘in the beginning was the Word’, so central to any creation story]; Korimako [the Bellbird] Sings; the ‘creation’ of laughter as a celebrant affirmation and expression of life, in Billet Doux, for example (a Song Letter, if you like); and in the Kyrie the readiness and capacity ‘to risk delight’: “despite/every dark thing there is in the world,/there will always be music/…what is the name of this song?” (Canticle).
Just as Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem so cleverly combines religious and secular texts, so is this an attempt to do something similar, but within a broader reach and intention. Thus, while extolling the extraordinary diversity of life (the many in the one, the one in the many) it also acknowledges death (‘there are many ways to leave the world, and return’) as an essential part of the life process. If we can’t know death how can we know life. The Ite missa est then is expanded into a Dance of Death, Dance of Life, which is the finale of the whole work.
As mentioned above, the six movements (or strophes, as in ‘turnings, a more dynamic figure) are linked together by the medieval folk song L’homme armé. This theme is used musically as a ‘Leitmotif’ and as such appears in each movement, sometimes openly but just as often ‘hiding’ or nesting in the musical texture. Its original old French text is by way of a pre-text to declare the opposite of its rather militant/bellicose sentiments—see opening Harlow versions: L’homme armé (1) of the Kyrie and the closing text L’homme armé (2) of the Agnus Dei.
The work is scored for a large choir and solo quartet (SATB), plus an orchestra of triple wind and enlarged percussion section: Timpani, Xylophone (or Glockenspiel), Piano and two other percussionists playing a variety of drums and smaller percussion instruments.
Kit Powell, Eglisau, Switzerland, January 2010 Michael Harlow, Dunedin, New Zealand, January 2010

Here is the opening of the Gloria up to and including the beginning of the soprano solo Korimako sings:

2. Gloria

No. 118 Missa Profana (2008 / 10 soli SATB, chorus SATB and orchestra)

Texts: Liturgy, Michael Harlow

1. Kyrie
L’homme armé (1): (SATB soli) Creation of Peace
We are the armed ones everywhere it has been proclaimed the armed one he is, the armed one she is the armed ones we are We shall arm ourselves with this cloak of peace dancing on one foot the other is not forgotten with this cloak of peace we shall arm ourselves with this cloak of peace
Kyrie, eleison. (3x) Christe, eleison.(3x) Kyrie, eleison. (3x)
Canticle: (tenor solo) Creation of the Delight of Innocence
This young boy and his sister on their skipping way to school and everywhere tossing shouts of laughter into the air. In a shower
of light on the bright whitewash wall of the Church of Saint Dionysia, they throw their shadows. They sign themselves and their animal friends, letting words
talk to each other; they tell their dreams. They do no less than risk delight: despite every dark thing there is in the world, there will always be music. And they wonder: what is the name of this song?

2. Gloria
Gloria in excelsis Deo: Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam:
Korimako sings: (soprano solo) Creation of Language
Korimako sings: Gott kann mir sagen, en archài o logos inside the lining of a word a word. . . a word. . . a word Sings Korimako: Im Anfang war die Tat One word, world-word In the beginning the deep history of a word . . . a word, a world-word into the night, into the night the light comes stealing Te ao hurihuri, Ahi . . .
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe: Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Billet-doux (alto and tenors soli) Creation of Laughter
And a candle too, all its fires flying quietly wingtips of light for you as bright this astonishment of a lemon-coloured sun I send over the hill, may they your heart hold still, and full this plainsong love to sing this day, and all years be my pretty pleasured by as much laughter as we can bear.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, Tu solus Dominus, Tu solus Altissimus, JESU Christe: Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

3. Credo
The Longest Day of the Year (SATB soli) Creation of Trust One Word one word, Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, and another, one word and another, waiting for the light, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium: for the light to come stealing in, come stealing in, Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum–– to hear the music of the world be the Saint of Laughter again . . . Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula; Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero . . . Bright flower of the sun, waiting for that shout of green, Genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt; the gold the dark has been keeping, the mind’s tenderness to the heart, Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de caelis. O bright flower of the sun, the mind’s tenderness to the heart––
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex MARIA Virgine: ET HOMO FACTUS EST. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis: sub Pontio Pilato passus et sepultus est.
Look, a Round (soprano and bass soli) Creation of Doubt
Over your shoulder The backward glance
The backward glance looking over your
shoulder the backward glance, to see yourself
coming the other way but didn’t, and yes the
good Lord is working me like a clock, funny
and serious, over your shoulder the backward
glance is over––and now the whole family
is flat on its back.
Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. We three together be, Et ascendit in caelum: sedet ad dexteram Patris. the many in the one, Et iterum venturus est cum gloria the one in the many, iudicare vivos et mortuos: cuius regni non erit finis. soul-window open, above and below, Et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum et vivificantem: all worlds one world, world-soul, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit; we hear rising on the air: Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: Christos anésti, qui locutus est per Prophetas. these voices light-filled, Et unam sanctam catholicam, et apostolicam Ecclesiam. we hear, singing the hearts out under the parasols of trees Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. this World Tree, Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum Alithós anésti, Et vitam venturi saeculi. one long… song… for all Amen.
“Χριστός ἀνέστη!” - “Christ is Risen!” and “Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! " - “Truly He is Risen!”

4. Sanctus - Benedictus
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus, Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis.
The Return (alto solo) Creation of Celebration
To be as that small bird of light that keeps floating its song, we sing you from that great height—you say you would like to be gone in order to be called home, like the bright water always travelling to return to itself. To be: always the One and the Other—the One whose farness is more near, to know that ‘earth is the right place for love’
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.

5. Agnus Dei (SATB soli) – variation of Kyrie
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem.
L’homme armé (2): (Choir) The man he is, the man she is the triumphant ones we are the disarmed one he is, the disarmed one she is the disarmed ones we are dancing on one foot – look
The war of course is elsewhere (solo Bass) Creation of Competition In a year of terrors we play the game of disappearance and return, all the years of terrors we draw maps
and colour out the world we raise towers for invisible cities and watch them fall we colour out the world
The war of course is elsewhere, we are listening for the innocence of children that stills the heart We lie rigid in the dark
in urgent need of information The war of course is elsewhere you can hear it humming on the street and everywhere we draw maps
and colour out the world you can hear it in hands that return home, tear light from the throats of doors. (Choir) the other is not forgotten dancing on one foot we are not forgotten

6. Ite missa est Creation of the Cycle of Life and Death
Dance of Life, Dance of Death Dark, dark, light, light, Dark, dark, light, light, In the dark, the dark, In the light, the light, The dark circle, the dark circle The light circle, the light circle In the dark circle, the dark In the light circle, the light In the dark circle, the light In the light circle, the dark The light in the dark circle The dark in the light circle Out of the dark, the light Out of the light, the dark Dancing on one foot the other is not forgotten How the dark and the light lie down . . . How the light and the dark lie down . . . The dark and the light The light and the dark The dark, dark The light, light Lie down—together Together—lie down O—dancing on one foot the other is not forgotten In the circle of death, the circle of life In the circle of life, the circle of death If you cannot dance with death, You cannot embrace life Dancing on one foot the other is not forgotten