John Rutter’s ‘Mass of the Children’ – background article by Brian Shaw


featuring John Rutter’s  MASS OF THE CHILDREN


SATURDAY FEBRUARY 28th at 7.30 p.m.

In order to celebrate John Rutter’s 70th birthday year, The Maidstone Singers are performing the last major work he has written, namely his “Mass of the Children”.

Though he is perhaps best known for his carols and other short pieces, John Rutter also has a number of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra to his name. Perhaps the most well  known of these larger works are the Requiem, the Magnificat and the Gloria.  The Mass of the Children received its première in Carnegie Hall, New York, in February 2003, and the first UK performance followed a month later in Guildford Cathedral, the composer conducting on both occasions. The work is scored for adult mixed choir, children’s choir, soprano and baritone soloists and orchestra. The Mass is a Missa Brevis – a Latin Mass without a Credo – in five movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Finale (Dona nobis pacem). Several additional English texts are also included.

 In his Mass of the Children Rutter has given the children’s choir a central part to play. It is they, not the adults, who are heard at the very outset, and their role throughout is integral to the overall concept of the Mass. In this performance, The Maidstone Singers will be joined by young singers from Maidstone Girls Grammar School, Invicta Grammar School and MYMS voices who will perform the taxing three-part children’s sections. As always with Rutter, the music is beautifully written for the voices and superbly orchestrated. His skilful writing for soloists, choirs and orchestra and his sensitive interweaving of the various Latin and English texts has resulted in one of his finest and most moving works. Indeed, the work was written in memory of his son Christopher who died in 2001 from an accident at the age of only 19. Christopher had followed in his father’s footsteps and was a choral scholar at Clare College, Cambridge. On Ash Wednesday 2001 he was one of the 4 soloists in Allegri’s Miserere and the following day he was knocked down and killed while crossing the road.

The Mass, which lasts about 45 minutes, will constitute the second part of the programme. In the first half, each of the choirs will perform a number of their own pieces.  Tickets will be available from singers or at the door – £12 for adults, £6 for under 18s and under 12s free.

Brian Shaw

[See our ‘Forthcoming Events’ page on this website for full details.]