Review of Missa Orbis Factor by Lindsay Koob –
American Record Guide (Mar/Apr 2009)
Albuquerque's Cathedral Church of St. John serves as both a champion of
Anglican and Episcopalian liturgical traditions and a source-via commissions
to major composers—of vital new sacred works. Firm evidence of both roles is
found in this recording.
The album's centerpiece is a marriage of two different settings of the Missa
Orbis Factor, an anonymous Gregorian Latin mass. The choral settings, by
Gerald Near (b. 1942), correspond to the Latin texts most commonly set by
composers: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. These are
interspersed with Peter Togni's (b. 1949) solo organ settings from his
Liturgical Suite, based on the same ancient plainchant themes.
Seeking a point of reference online, I found a partial performance of the
original Gregorian mass and learned that both composers were very true to
their source materials. Near's organ-supported choral arrangements never
stray far from the original melodies and rarely lose the limpid,
flowing'feel' of plainchant. Yet his imaginative, uncontrived harmonic
elaborations and the organ's subtle underpinnings lend the work a distinctly
modern aura. Likewise, Togni's organ interludes bear strong, if somewhat
more complex allegiance to the original themes. The net effect is quite
ethereal and soothing.
Framing the mass at either end, we hear five other modern works. The program
begins with a beguiling setting of the classic Magnificat text set by the
late David Hogan (b. 1949), followed by 'New Every Morning is the Love'—a
very moving piece recently commissioned from Stephen Paulus (b. 1949).
Following the mass is Judith Bingham's classic Ave Verum Corpus text. The
final choral offering is 'The Head that Once was Crowned with Thorns', a
potent anthem by David Arcus (b. 1958). The program ends with Director of
Cathedral Music Quinn's own remarkable organ Toccata on Victimae Paschali
The Cathedral Choir is first-rate in every respect—definitely one of the
better American church ensembles I've heard lately. Raven's vivd sound does
them full justice; the booklet is complete and very informative.
Episcopalian choirmasters seeking to treat their congregations to accessible
and stirring new music are urged to check this one out.
Review of Missa Orbis Factor by Craig Smith – Pasatiempo,
Santa Fe New Mexican (Mar. 6-12, 2009)
Some good Raven CDs have come out of Albuquerque since Iain Quinn and Maxine
Thévenot took over the music program at the Cathedral of St. John several
years ago, including solo-organ discs by both and the premiere recording by
Las Cantantes, a University of New Mexico women's group conducted by
Thévenot. This release features Quinn and Thévenot conducting the mostly
volunteer cathedral choir and accompanying or soloing at the organ console.
The disc's anchor piece is former Santa Fean and noted American composer
Gerald Near's sensitive setting of the Gregorian "Orbis Factor" chant as a
Mass, plus Canadian composer Peter Togni's organ interpretation of the same
chant. Anthems by Stephen Paulus, Judith Bingham, David Hogan, and David
Arcus provide other sonic landscapes, and the pieces unroll a sthey would in
an actual service. The coral singing is good though not perfect, and Quinn
and Thevenot make sure every consonant is correctly placed and most vowels
well matched between sections. Brent Stevens' recording and engineering
paints a consistent acoustic picture of the cathedral space. No small task:
the choral selections were recorded in October 2007 and the first-rate
solo-organ performances—Thévenot on the Togni and Quinn on his own
multipart, flourish-filled Toccata on Victimae Paschali Laudes—in May 2008.
Review of Missa Orbis Factor by Shirley Radcliffe – Choir
& Organ (Mar/Apr 2009)
The Church has a long history of commissioning new music for the liturgy,
and the Cathedral Church of St. John, Albuquerque is no exception. The
central works are two settings of the Missa Orbis Factor: Canadian
composer Peter Togni's four interludes from his Liturgical Suite for organ
based on themes fom the Mass interspersed with Gerald Near's choral setting.
These works neatly dovetail together and are enhanced by clear, expressive
singing in the choir and the sympathetically registered organ playing of
Thevenot. Accompanying works are by Hogan, Paulus, Bingham, Arcus and
Quinn's Toccata on Victimae Paschali Laudes, a powerful work magnificently
played by the composer on the cathedral's impressive Reuter organ. There is
much to admire here.
Review of Missa Orbis Factor by Victor Hill – The
Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians (Dec 2008)
This disc is subtitled "New Works for the Liturgy"and contains some
excellent new repertory, including no fewer than eight first
recordings. Our colleagues Iain and Maxine produce, with their
singers, an expertly sung and played program of music that adds
significantly ito the literature.
The featured work is the Missa Orbis factor of Gerald Near (not one of the
first recordings). It is interspersed with selections (Prelude, Offerotay,
Communion and Postlude) from the Liturgical Suite of the Canadian composer
Peter Togni--itself based on the Missa Orbis factor--to make a full
Eucharistic sequence. Near uses the Gregorian melodies as the basis for an
attractive Mass setting, enjoyable for singers and accessible to a
The program opens with the Magnificat from the Mt. St. Albans set of David
Hogan and continues with a new setting of New every morning is the love, by
Stephen Paulus. Following the Mass is a new Ave verum corpus by Judith
Bingham, in which a a repeated rhythmic motif is described by the composer
as representing Christ 'dragging the cross to the crucifixion'. Thus rather
astringent piece poses some tricky intonation problems, which the choir
negotiates adroitly. (under the direction of Thevenot) The program closes
festively with a new anthem on The Head that once was crowned with thorns by
David Arcus and Iain's stirring Toccata on 'Victimae Paschali Laudes." The
liner includes extensive program notes, credits, biographies, and some nice