I just sent the last of the five movements of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus to Ken Godel, the superb editor/engraver who is preparing the score to be sent to The Crossing. The premiere is set for 7:30 pm on June 28 at The Icebox, here in Philadelphia. I’ll have more to say about the piece in future posts, but for now, here is the program note I provided in the front matter of the score:
This work is part of a long tradition of Mass settings that juxtapose additional poems with the standard Latin texts; Requiems of Benjamin Britten and Christopher Rouse are recent examples, though the practice of poetic insertions originated many centuries ago. I have assigned the Latin texts (excerpts in the case of the Credo) to a group of four solo singers while the main choir sings excerpts from a cycle of poems by Denise Levertov inspired by the Mass texts. The Latin settings are in the manner of various forms of liturgical music, and include quotations of a Bach chorale and Gregorian Chant.
The title of my piece is that of the Levertov cycle. St. Thomas Didymus is the apostle Thomas, with the designation “Didymus” meaning “the twin”. Thomas is informally known as “doubting Thomas” because of his insistence on seeing and touching Jesus before he would believe in the Resurrection. Upon subsequently seeing Christ, he acknowledged him as “My Lord and my God”. A Mass honoring St. Thomas is a Mass that honors the juxtaposition of doubt and belief that is the basis of life in pursuit of the divine. The simple pair of twin statements in Levertov’s reflection on the Credo is the pivot of the work:
I believe and
interrupt my belief with
doubt. I doubt and
interrupt my doubt with belief.