New Mass for Unison Voices

A note from Nick Gale, Director of Music, St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, UK

Readers of the Chant Café may like to make use of a great setting of the Mass (new ICEL texts) that I commissioned from international prize-winning composer Nicholas O’Neill. It was written to trial the new texts here in the UK and was used, with the relevant permissions, at the Panel of Monastic Musicians’ Conference in Quarr Abbey in 2008. It is now in regular use at the Family Mass every week at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark (London, UK).

As you will see, it is through-composed and, in the manner of many SATB Latin settings, it uses thematic material that runs through each movement – eg the D, F, G, A motif of the Kyrie is picked up in the Lord Jesus Christ section of the Gloria, the ‘fanfare’ motif at the opening of the Gloria is used in the Alleluia and the Great Amen etc.

The congregational parts are a little more taxing than most ‘refrain’ settings and the organ part assumes a reasonably competent organist (who can play pedals!), though Nicholas has said he will happily supply a manuals-only edition on request. The Dorian mode used in the outer movements and in the central portion of the Gloria may not be the most uplifting in the eyes of some, but I think it lends a wonderfully solemn character lacking in many vernacular settings. In my view this is a superb setting and I commend it to all who are looking for a robust, good-quality setting of the new Ordinary.

Nicholas has written several Latin settings of the Mass for a capella ensemble, SATB + organ and for ATB (div), as well as a great number of Latin motets and English anthems. He is available for commissions and his existing work can, for the time being, be obtained free of charge and on request via his website: – his only requirement is that you advise him of where and when the music is being used for his records.

By way of background, in 1992 Nicholas was unanimously awarded first prize in the Norwich Festival Composition Competition. He won the Gregynog Young Composers’ Award in 1993, also sharing the Barbara Johnstone Composition Prize in 1995, while he has also been shortlisted for the William Mathias, Cornelius Cardew, Oare String Orchestra, Purcell and Vocalis composition awards. He has recently been awarded the 2012 American Guild of Organists Marilyn Mason Award for Organ Composition. He has been commissioned by a great many UK cathedrals and major churches, Oxbridge colleges and the UK Parliament Choir, as well as by individuals, institutions and ensembles all over the world. I hope you will enjoy his one-and-only setting of a congregational liturgical work!