When Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo wrote Sunrise Mass: Symphonic Mass for Choir and String Orchestra in 2007, he says his goal was to create music that would allow listeners “to experience transcendence, resolution and the feeling of redemption, joy and peace.”
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Christ Church Chancel Choir and a professional 10-piece string orchestra will present this work and commemorate All Souls’ Day in a Holy Eucharist service in the Contemporary Worship Space.The service is free and open to the public; goodwill offerings will benefit Community Hospice and Palliative Care.
All Souls’ Day, also called Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, commemorates all Christians who have died. Officially marked every year on Nov. 2, the day after All Saint’s Day, it reminds living Christians that they are joined with Christians who have completed their earthly life and who share the hope of resurrection from the dead.
Gjeio’s (pronounced Yay-lo) composition, while written to evoke beautiful emotions, is complex and multidimensional. The Chancel Choir began rehearsing for it in early August. The Latin text and the music strive to convey a metaphysical journey from the heavens to earth, which is one of the reasons Christ Church Music Director Dr. Rachel Root selected it.
In four parts, the text is taken from the Ordinary of the Mass: Kyrie: The Spheres; Gloria: Sunrise; Credo: The City; Sanctus and Agnus Dei: Identity.
It is a representation of God’s creation taking form, Rachel says. “It’s bringing heaven to earth—the sunrise, moon, planets and stars. Heaven is the spiritual and the spiritual is formless, we don’t see it. The music transcends both earth and heaven. It connects us.”
Christ Church parishioner Chuck Adams attended last year’s All Souls’ service in remembrance of his wife, Nancy, who died in March 2017. Nancy was a longtime member of the Chancel Choir, and “All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day were important to her, so they were important to me,” he says. He found the presentation “very solemn, very sad, and very comforting.”
Chuck appreciated that Rachel made it a point to invite him with a personal invitation. The church invites parishioners who have lost family members during the previous year, but the service is open to everyone.
“Everyone has lost family members,” Chuck says. “I am very glad I went.”