Addressing issues of peace, justice and equality through song is the primary focus of World House Choir.
Given that directive, it’s not surprising the community-based vocal group with singers from Dayton, Cincinnati, Yellow Springs and the surrounding area decided to present the compelling “Missa Gaia: A Mass in Celebration of Mother Earth” in concert Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11-13.
The free performances are at Antioch College Amphitheatre in Yellow Springs at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Grace United Methodist Church in Dayton at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“We are many faiths and many belief systems coming together around this growing awareness,” World House Choir director Catharine Roma said. “We need to act together on this climate disruption. We want to raise our voices and consciousness together, and I think this work is so perfect that way.”
“Missa Gaia,” composed by Paul Winter in the early 1980s, is a challenging full-length piece, employing a variety of musical styles and incorporating human voices, musical instruments and animal voices, but the underlying message was too powerful for Roma to resist.
“When Paul Winter wrote ‘Missa Gaia’ he said he wanted to create a Mass that was both ecumenical and ecological and one that would embrace all the voices of the earth,” she said. “It is so apropos right now as far as everything that’s going on in our collective lives as we look at the world. There is climate disruption happening, and here’s this beautiful piece of art addressing that.”
To reproduce Winter’s work, Roma has assembled a 100-person choir and a nine-piece band.
“The music is quite stylistically diverse,” she said. “It has Afro-Brazilian, classical, new age, gospel, jazz and some indigenous Native American. We don’t only have human voices and instrumental voices, we have myriad voices of harp seals, whales, wolves and all of that.
“The instrumentalists are all jazz musicians who improvise,” Roma said. “In the past we’ve had three or four instrumentalists, so nine is stretching us, but it’s important because you need that soprano saxophone talking to the animal voices. We have one person doing oboe and English horn, and there’s cello, bass, guitar, piano, organ and percussion.”
Roma hopes the concerts serve as a sonic wake-up call for local audiences.
“Art and music has a role to play as we celebrate the beauty of the planet as well as our consciousness,” she said. “We need to step up here and help each other realize we need to take some strong and direct action to wake ourselves up.”
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