Mass for Five Parts
for SSATB a cappellaforces: SSATB Choir
duration: Ca 22'00"
published by: Composer
This work is featured on a Signum worldwide release of choral and solo organ music by Francis Pott [SIGCD 080] performed in 2006 by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, under its then Director of Music, Judy Martin, with Tristan Russcher, organ.
The Mass in five parts was commissioned by Christopher Batchelor for the 2004 London estival of Contemporary Church Music. It strives less than its 16th-century antecedents to unify its separate movements through overarching tonality and thematic content (though the Osanna concluding the Benedictus movement serves as a weightless echo of that in the preceding Sanctus: for some reason the image of whirling snowflakes had come to me, and this was duly reflected); but perhaps it goes further than most modern settings in espousing intensive, sometimes quite rigorous motivic counterpoint.
The Mass is dedicated ‘To the happy memory of Peter McCrystal and his conducting within the Edington Festival of Church Music and the Liturgy’. Peter’s premature death in 2002 shocked and saddened his many friends. An inveterate leg-puller, he had never allowed me to forget one occasion at the annual Edington Festival (in Wiltshire) when a friend of his failed to identify me as the perpetrator of a piece to which she had taken exception during a very recent concert. She denounced the culprit at some length to us both, before fatal eye contact occurred, whereupon his composure and mine were entirely and explosively lost in the same instant… A resident of Dublin, Peter sang at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and it was poignant to hear the Mass brought to life when the choir of the neighbouring Christ Church Cathedral recorded it in 2006, a stone’s throw from where he had been best known and loved. Ave atque vale.
Choir and Organ
First comes the word and here we have a composer who has an implicit understanding and love of the text, which manifests itself throughout his music. Judy Martin is a choral director who has a perfect understanding of this relationship. She draws from the mixed-voice choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in beautifully expressive and finely honed performances. This elegant and individual music gains its own momentum as it builds toward each climax. Choral works include the Mass for five parts, Turn our Captivity, A Remembrance and O Lord, support us all the day long. The composer’s organ writing is represented by his stunning Introduction, Toccata and Fugue, which is given a first-rate performance by the Cathedral’s young Australian organist Tristan Russcher. Highly Recommended.
The Times, May 2006
The music of Francis Pott is rapidly gaining attention for its silky lines and sensitivity. The items that give the album its title, Meditations and Remembrances, are settings of the 17th-century thinker Thomas Traherne. One senses Pott’s pleasure at painting the word “love” with such glowing warmth in A Meditation. He is well served by a beautifully tuned choir. The Osanna in the Five-Part Mass is light and crisp and Psalm 126 ends with the sort of melismatic Amen for which the Church was once reprimanded.
American Record Review, November-December 2006
The multitude of English choral collections I’ve covered over the years have left me familiar with the vibrant sacred music of Francis Pott (b 1957), as few of the better British choirs have passed it by. I’m glad that Signum has seen fit to devote an entire album to his work. Its very English character reflects the bedrock influence of William Byrd, updated a la Stanford, Leighton, Finzi, and Howells.
The five shorter pieces include ‘Turn our Captivity’, an impressive eight-part setting (with organ) of Psalm 126 that runs the gamut between hushed mystery and agitated power. There’s also a substantial organ work, the Introduction, Toccata & Fugue, written in tribute to 20th-Century organ masters Jehan Alain and Maurice Duruflé. These, as well as the other pieces, display Pott’s considerable polyphonic mastery.
Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral Choir—a mixed adult ensemble—is one of Ireland’s finest and perhaps the nation’s leading exponent of the Anglican tradition. They deliver this often complex music with precision and authority. Tristan Russcher is fabulous at the organ. If you’re serious about modern English sacred music, Francis Pott is a composer you must get to know.