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Music: Mass setting to premiere at General Convention
Composition is tribute to ministry of Presiding Bishop

By Matthew Davies
6/5/2006

Craig Phillips, associate director of music and composer-in-residence at All Saints' Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills.  

 
[Episcopal News Service]  A new Mass setting, composed in honor of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, will receive its premiere performance during the 10 a.m. Eucharist on Saturday, June 17, as part of the Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Composed by Craig Phillips, associate director of music and composer-in-residence at All Saints' Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills, the "Festival Eucharist" is structured in the same way as a standard Mass setting and includes the movements Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus, Christ our Passover, and Agnus Dei.

For Phillips, it was a great honor to be asked to write a piece for the entire church, and especially as a tribute to the ministry of Bishop Griswold whom, he says, he has never met, but has admired for many years.

The Rev. Canon Anthony Jewiss, deputy executive officer in the Office of General Convention, contacted Phillips in 2004 about writing the new Mass setting. Both agreed on music that would be accessible and easily learned by congregations throughout the Episcopal Church, while also being "a work of substance and musical interest -- one that would endure over time," Phillips said.

There are three versions of the Festival Eucharist, which is being published this month by Paraclete Press.

A standard version -- set for Congregation, Choir and Organ -- is the simpler edition intended for use in churches on Sundays. A second version -- with accompaniment for organ, brass quintet and timpani -- could be used in many churches for festive occasions such as Easter or Pentecost. The third version, which will be performed at General Convention, has accompaniments for 12-part brass, percussion and organ.

The composition also includes two choices for a Fraction Anthem, Phillips explains -- one more festive in nature, and the other, more contemplative. In some of the movements, especially the Gloria, the choir performs large portions of the text, while the congregation sings a recurring refrain, such as "Glory to God in the highest." The Sanctus and Agnus Dei movements are sung by the entire congregation throughout.

"One other element that was brought into the piece was the idea of 'inclusiveness,'" Phillips said, commenting on two of the refrains that may be sung in Spanish, or Spanish and English simultaneously. "Also gender neutral language was used where it seemed appropriate."

Born in 1961, Phillips holds the degrees of Doctor of Musical Arts, Master of Music, and the Performers Certificate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Increasingly in demand as a composer, Phillips has been awarded commissions from the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Anglican Musicians, the Chamber Orchestra at St. Matthew's, Pacific Palisades, California, Washington National Cathedral, and many other churches and cathedrals. He has also penned several secular works.

His compositions have received critical acclaim in journals such as Clavier, the American Organist, Cross Accent, and the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, and have been broadcast on National Public Radio's Pipedreams.

Phillips will conduct the "Festival Eucharist" at General Convention and the choir will consist of singers from the Columbus area.

The Rev. Dr. Clayton Morris, Liturgical Officer of the Episcopal Church, is one of many who are enthusiastic about the new work. "Craig's music is not only wonderful to sing and hear," he said, "it is extremely accessible as well."

[Craig Phillips' biography can be found online at: http://www.allsaintsbh.org/music/craig.htm]