The Fire Mass
by Christopher W. Dedrick and Kenneth G. Mills
"The Fire Mass is an extensive a cappella vocal setting of the full Latin text of the Ordinary of the Mass in its six sections. Interwoven with the traditional Latin is the English poetry of of Kenneth Mills which was chosen for its relevance to the universal essence of such a celebration.
"Conceived for a ten-to-twelve voice ensemble, it is tonal yet avant-garde sonority, harmony and rhythm. The first edition was drafted in the first half of 1985. Throughout the year and into 1986, in rehearsal with The Star-Scape Singers and at the keyboard, Dr. Mills sculpted, edited and refined the work, polishing its facets and lifting the entire musical concept off the page and into the inspired realm befitting such a text. Thus, it is to him that this work is dedicated." -
- Christopher W. Dedrick, co-composer
The Star-Scape Singers in this performance conducted by Kenneth G. Mills are: Robert Bullock, Christopher Dedrick, Sandra Dedrick, Stefanie Dedrick, Dianne Forsyth, Richard Leach, Alberta Ridley, Linda Roedl, Terry Stevens and Peter Thompson
The Fire Mass was premiered in March 1986 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It received its European premiere in Lausanne Cathedral, Switzerland in August 1986, presented by the city of Lausanne and recorded by Radio Suisse Romande. Performances in Poland and Belgium followed during The Star-Scape Singers' fourth European tour in autumn 1986. On June 7, 1988 they presented this ninety-minute work at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto. This performance was broadcast nationally by CBC radio.
The Fire Mass was heard to great public and critical acclaim during the ensembles' tour of the Soviet Union in summer 1988, in Riga (Latvia), Vilnuis (Lithuania), Moscow, Lenningrad, and Talinn (Estonia).
"The human voice is a miracle of creation. Through it we learn the subtleties of rhythmic expression in language, thought and music. Every sentence contains tone, melody, meaning, expression and even overtone harmonics. The beginning of the tonal word was the beginning of communication....
"The awesome range of expression possible in the human voice is also evident in the music of religious devotion, from Gregorian chants to the mystical sounds of the Tibetan Tantric monks. No other instrument has as much variety, flexibility and colour as the human voice; and this instrument is provided free of charge to nearly everyone in the human family.
"Here are some very special albums that are unique, and not heard on many FM stations. However they may be key to the development of vocal music into the next century....
"The Toronto-based Star-Scape Singers (Sun-Scape Records) are world renowned for their highly evocative style of music and performance. In the past decade they have refined their progressive composition into simply magical music. As the special guest of the mayor of Moscow, they were chosen to sing for all the ensembles during the last May Day festivities. Their new world anthem may become one of the most significant contributions of art to the quest for world peace. The Fire Mass, A Sound Voyage, and The Song: The Heart of Christmas, composed and conducted by Kenneth G. Mills, are already collectors' albums."
- Don Campbell
Director, Institute for Music, Health and Education, Boulder, Colorado
Author, "The Mozart Effect"
"This is a superbly trained ensemble. Collectively, the 10 solo voices make up an instrument of bright and extraordinary varied capacity. They function as one - singing with piercing purity, without vibrato, and in flawless pitch."
- Tim Page, The New York Times
"The Star-Scape Singers from Toronto - 10 remarkable gifted soloists, five men and five women - and their director Kenneth G. Mills gave a splendid Carnegie Hall concert that stamped them as a vocal ensemble of rare distinction.
"Many aspects of the group, which was founded by Mills in 1976, seem to be an expression of an upbeat life philosophy - from the singers' confident walk on and offstage, to their elegant attire, their composure, and of course, their repertoire, which consists primarily of original material by Mills and his co-composers, Christopher Dedrick and James Roedl.
"Mills has many uncanny insights into the potentials of the voice and weaves them tellingly into a gorgeous tapestry of sound.
"There is much to praise - keen phrasing, excellent intonation, the instrumental timbre of the voices, the use of overtones, high harmonies, evocative chords. And a lot more.
"This group is special."
- Robert Kimball, New York Post
"This music reveals the extraordinary results of an unprecedented work of exploration and discovery, unveiling still hidden vocal possibilities.... I sense a turning point in the history of choral singing."
- Ivan Silic, Music Critic, Slovenia