10 Replies to “Kevin Allen on ETWN Live!”

  1. Maybe it's the water in Tahoe, but I can't believe anyone would not be enraptured by Allen's music. His latest release at:


    is ready proof of that. The partnership of Kevin Allen, Matthew Curtis and Jeffrey Ostrowski is a match made….in heaven!

    With Catholic composers cranking out new music for the masses right now, they would all do well to study Kevin's work to learn to properly write for the Mass. It's modern yet it's polyphonic writing that is not just concert hall material, but also liturgically apt.

    The Vatican should be made aware of Kevin Allen's work and he should be knighted…maybe it's time for Ostrowski, Curtis and Allen to have a private audience with the Pope and be blessed – as he is by their work.

  2. Kevin Allen's work certainly merits much more attention than it is currently being given.

    One could criticize his work as anachronistic. Such an unfounded comment usually proceeds from the mouths of modernists who have rejected tonality and cannot compose counterpoint without crashing into their own lack of skill after a few painful measures.

    No, not anachronistic. Mr. Allen's music is exactly what the Church needs right now. I am thinking of his motets, for example. His work confirms a mastery of clarity, lyricism, rich sonority and subtle drama. He possesses the ability to effectively paint a text without obscuring it with bungled repetition or the crass oversimplification typical of so much liturgical muzak these days. His work, by contrast, is truly sacred, i.e., it fits into the Mass because it is already "of" the Mass. Allen's work reveals a superior craftsmanship that allows room for the worshipper to be actively receptive, and thus qualifies it as a fitting vehicle for prayer.

    What we hear in Mr. Allen's work is the hermeneutic of continuity realized. I hear a mastery of tradition informing the contemporary mind. Mr. Allen meets us where are "ears are at", and he respects the listener's intelligence by nudging the ear along a path that stimulates the imagination and satisfies the need for tension and resolution. I hear authentic harmony, i.e., convincing counterpoint. Mr. Allen, as evidenced by his work, possesses the good sense to ground his music in a vocabulary that is personal and universal. (Here I think of Duruflé's ability to unite the ancient and modern.) He is able to create interest and balance in every phrase, and yet one is not left merely fascinated with his obvious skill. What we hear is not mere technical dexterity and not just fluency with musical concepts but beautiful music that disposes the heart and mind to God.

    If I had the financial means, I would commission a Mass setting from Mr. Allen forthwith.

    (btw – Lest I be accused of being an associate who is gushing over another colleague's work, I have no direct connection to Mr. Allen.)

  3. Well stated, Warren, I agree having heard and performed Kevin's motets at colloquia and my own parish.
    I won't surmise what would be considered "criticism" of his compositional milieau, but I can attest to what qualities make it attractive: accesssiblity, not beyond a reasonably capable SATB/SSA ensemble; fresh though not hide-bound in harmonic/melodic traditions; and definitely pious, rather than pretentious towards the "sacred" in the term sacred music. Allen's work stands alone in a room full of Lauridsens, Whitacres, Stroopes, and Parts. That is because Kevin is grounded in his role as a sacred composer, I would imagine.
    One thing I know: there are more Kevin Allens on the horizon. A new friend of mine in my diocese will debut a Mass setting at Pittsburgh that should receive a very warm welcome.

  4. Wow! Very articulate…and he took no prisoners in that end segment on the "dead Mass" and living composers.

    I've felt that Kevin and I are basically doing the same thing, a modern take on Renaissance polyphony. Our models are different; he's a Lasso/Byrd guy, whereas I'm more Josquin/Gesualdo. And he has a deeper, solider formation in the faith. One of the things I really admire about his work is that he doesn't sacrifice ends to means; he uses the language he needs, even if some performers might have to work at it. Even those new simple motets are not so simple.

    I'd love to meet him someday. And I'm thankful to live in an age where so many fine composers are writing for the liturgy.

  5. I find Allen's "Missa Cunctipotens Genitor Deus" a mishmashed cacophony that struggles to end up on the final note in unison. Very disjointed and distracting, and one of the worst Masses I've ever sung. Schubert's "Mass In G" it is not.

    There, I've said it. Remember, you asked.

  6. Is it the lack of simple, clear thematic ideas (aka "hooks"), or the relative harmonic density in comparison to Renaissance music? On of the strong things in Kevin's music, to me, is the sense of resolution and harmonic change, in comparison with so much choral music today, which tends to just sit on lush 5-6 (or more) note chords.

  7. Jeffrey: No, I just think MCGD is very disjointed both for the singer and the listener. I'd rather sing a Byrd Mass.

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