About this work:
To set any part of the Ordinary of the mass is not only to continue an ancient tradition but also inescapably to be influenced and inspired by it. In composing my Missa Brevis, I made no attempt to conceal my admiration for settings ranging from
Gregorian chant to those of Poulenc, Vaughan-Williams and Stravinsky that had nurtured me from childhood. The wide spectrum of emotions apparently solicited by my setting, austere at first, peaceful sometimes, even mysterious on occasion, joyful finally, also reflects my own strong feelings about the significance of the sacred texts and the special power of Greek and Latin to communicate that.
The term Missa Brevis has been used by composers like Palestrina and Bach to mean either a briefer setting, easy enough to be sung by less accomplished choirs, or a somewhat more elaborate setting of only the Kyrie and Gloria (the Mass in B
minor of Bach began originally as such a missa brevis). My own Missa Brevis conforms rather to the second definition while retaining much of the forthrightness conveyed by masses that satisfy the first. It was, however, never intended to be a part
of the liturgy, although I feel it would not be unwelcome among members of a congregation receptive to the muscular harmonies and energetic rhythms found in some of the passages.
Composed during the summer of 1954, in part while I visited the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood, Missa Brevis was first performed by the Queens College Choir conducted by John Castellini at Queens College on January 14, 1955. Following a performance of it at The Town Hall in New York by The Mastersingers conducted by Joseph Liebling on March 16, 1957, Edward Downes wrote in The New York Times that it was "more than a well contrived piece. . . . Its vocal lines are interesting, its
harmonies have a pleasant bite, and the whole has character." It is my fervent hope that these qualities have not diminished since then.
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: email@example.com
Recorded on Capstone Records CPS-8710
Review: "By far the most interesting work to this listener was an extremely brief Missa Brevis by Allen Brings....
"This mass is more than a well contrived piece for small unaccompanied choir. Its vocal lines are interesting, its harmonies have a pleasant bite, and the whole has character."
E. D. 1957
Version: 4-part chorus, a cappella
Year composed: 1954
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Chorus, Unaccompanied
Instrumentation: 3 S,1 S soloist(s), 3 SS, 3 A,1 A soloist(s), 3 AA, 2 T,1 T soloist(s), 2 TT, 2 B,1 B soloist(s), 2 BB
Instrumentation notes: Parts are occasionaly divided into 2 parts. Soloists are drawn from the chorus.