Saturday evening, the acoustically live sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church in Mission, Kansas gave beautiful reverberation to the unaccompanied Spire Chamber Ensemble, as it featured Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin (1890-1974) and music of Jake Runestad (b. 1986) with a little Bruckner and Mendelssohn added in.
According to Artistic Director, Ben Spalding's notes, Martin's mass might never have been performed. Completed in 1926, the composer put it away to keep between him and God; friends intervened and it was first performed in 1961. Spalding did not choose to fill the propers of the mass from sources other than Martin, so The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus et Benedictus, and Agnus Dei were performed successively.
The Kyrie began with the altos from choir two singing a 20th Century version of a Gregorian Chant incipit, followed sequentially by other sections of choir two. The opening transitions to a massive, dissonant cry for the Lord's mercy as the full choir joins the plaintive call.
Gloria in excelsis Deo, began with a quick, hushed sequential entry of the initial word. Never sounding like Brahms, the section was amazingly harmonious; dissonances and open chords only seemed to add breadth to the sound, rather than grating on the ears. A bass voice pressed a little on the Amen.
Credo in unum Deo, was through-composed, appropriately rising and becoming more dissonant on such text as Crucifixus, and reverently hushed when declaring belief in the Holy Spirit.
Sanctus begins with both sets of basses and tenors entering on an open 9th chord, creating an ethereal sound, joined shortly be choir one sopranos in a high, florid, glassy repetition of sanctus. The section proceeds with holy dissonance and builds to a celebratory hosanna in excelsis. The Benedictus starts with short, chirpy, relatively soft sounds sounds and builds to an hosanna in excelsis equal to the Sanctus.