Dmitri Matheny's SPIRITU SANCTO (aka "The New Millennium Mass") received its world premiere on December 31, 1999, at the stroke of midnight, at St. Domenic's Church in San Francisco. The Mass was enthusiastically received as a serious new work that draws on jazz, gospel, and world music while embracing classic liturgical traditions.
SPIRITU SANCTO is a complete liturgical work of seventeen movements. Scored for chorus, organ, percussion, brass quintet, jazz ensemble and gospel soloist, the Mass was conducted by Dr. David Schofield, with composer Dmitri Matheny performing on flugelhorn. An all-star group of musicians is featured, including jazz vocalist Clairdee, pianist and organist Matthew Clark, bassist Ruth Davies, drummer Curt Moore, the San Francisco Brass, and the St. Dominic’s Choir.
St. Dominic’s Church, considered one of the most significant examples of neo-gothic church architecture in the western United States, provided a powerful setting for this celebration of the two thousand years since Christ’s birth. Repaired and restored following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the beautiful structure features unusual acoustics because of its soaring ceilings and stone construction.
The performance was recorded live by producer, Lolly Lewis, and Grammy-award winning recording engineer, Phil Edwards.
"I was inspired by the idea that the dawn of the new millennium should be greeted with optimism, creativity, and spiritual contemplation," said Matheny.
Drawing on two millennia of liturgical, classical, jazz, and world music traditions, SPIRITU SANCTO is an artistic expression of hope, embracing all people.
The work employs a five-note recurring motif, sometimes set to the phrase "Spiritu Sancto," ("Holy Spirit"). This idee fixe is reiterated throughout the Mass, posing a musical question that is not answered until the final fanfare.
The same five-note motif is used to construct a composite scale (based on the B7 and C7 chords) that provides the harmonic structure for the piece. The result is a refreshingly contemporary composition; yet, one can hear the echoes of classic Gregorian chants, the works of Mozart and Haydn and the rhythms and melodies of American jazz, gospel, and world music.
The Processional is an arrangement of French, Welsh and Russian folk melodies for brass quintet that evolves into the jazz quartet foreshadowing the musical motif’s role throughout the work. It concludes with an antiphonal fanfare announcing the beginning of the Mass.
The Kyrie (employing the traditional Greek text) begins with an African motif, suggesting mankind's geographic origins. The African drone evolves to plainchant, then call and response.
A highlight of the Mass is the Offertory, which features an original spiritual-influenced melody set to lyrics by Ted W. Hall. The meaning-laden phrase, "I'm Ready", is exchanged between vocalist and choir in swinging, blues-like choruses.
During Communion, an extended instrumental introduction precedes a setting of the "Canticle of St. Francis. " St. Francis of Assisi wrote this ecstatic poem, which has inspired composers from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Sting.
The celebratory fanfare as the Mass is ended symbolically announces the arrival of the new millennium. The scintillating, rhythmic Recessional places voices, brass, and both Eastern and Western percussion instruments over an Afro-Cuban organ montuno.