Missa Universalis means “Universal Mass” in the Latin language. The three masses on this recording, for mixed chorus a cappella, were written between 1984 and 1992. They are masses because they derive from Catholic liturgy, and are universal because of the message that there is but one God – “Credo in unum Deum.” All references to strictly Christian dogma have been removed, resulting in a mass for all human beings regardless of religious background. Stylistic influences of liturgical chant, including the music of the Russian Orthodox Church, are strong throughout these works.
Roger Davidson has been a composer from an early age. Born in Paris in 1952, he began teaching himself the piano at the age of four and started taking violin lessons at eight. He grew up mainly in New York City, but moved to Minnesota in 1970 to attend St. Olaf College. There he majored in German language and literature, as well as Asian studies, obtaining a B.A. in 1974. He later earned a Master of Music degree in composition from Boston University (1981) and a Master of Music in choral conducting from Westminster choir College in Princeton, N.J. (1985). While at Westminster, Mr. Davidson wrote his first choral works, among which is the first Missa Universalis (1984).
His recordings include One God, One World (an auto abridgement of his book of the same title, published by the Foundation for Universal Sacred Music) and Missa Universalis (Soundbrush Records), both of which include choral works representing the beginnings of what he later termed “universal sacred music.” Mandala, an orchestral work, was a finalist in the 1983 St. Paul Chamber Orchestra composers’ competition. The work was later recorded on the CD Mandala (MMC Recordings) that features soloists Richard Stolzman and Jeffrey Silberschlag. In 1982 he wrote Unispace (for choir, organ, piano, and percussion), inspired by a United Nations conference of the same name. Unispace was performed in major cities as a benefit for UNICEF.
Mr. Davidson created the Society for Universal Sacred Music in 2000 as part of his lifelong commitment to creating a repertoire of sacred music that celebrates the unity and unconditional love of God. He is a composer and pianist whose interests span a wide range of styles and traditions, including jazz, folk music and Argentine tango, as well as concert music for choir, orchestra and chamber ensemble. He is president of Soundbrush Records, producer of jazz, Latin and world music. (www.soundbrush.com)
His most recent program, in January 2008, was the premiere in Carnegie Hall of “Prayer for Peace” for jazz trio and orchestra, with the Stamford Symphony, Eckhart Preu, conductor, David Finck on bass and David Ratajczak on drums.