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Giles Swayne

Publisher: Novello & Co

Missa tiburtina (1985)
commissioned by the International Kodaly Society
Work Notes
1st performance with added Gloria 5 July 1986, Norwich Cathedral Choir / Michael Nicholas, conductor
Novello & Co Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
20 Minutes

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Programme Note
Giles Swayne Missa tiburtina (1985)
The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to earth. All things are connected, like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself!

(Chief Seattle)

Every year the world spends $750 billion on weapon
Every year 40 million people die of hunger
Every year the UK alone spends over £200 million on slimming foods
Every sixty seconds 30 children die of hunger
One quartet of all food in the USA is thrown away uneaten
10% of all living species (including plants) are under threat of extinction by the year 2000**

**These figures are taken from The Gaia atlas of Planet Management, published in 1985 by Pan Books

The rich nations of the world, out of greed, insecurity and muddle, are starving the poor nations to death, destroying the genetic heritage which is the living foundation of our planet's future, and wasting its resources at a rate which is scarcely credible. In our age of unbelief we look to man to solve our problems, but this problem is vast, intractable, and self-imposed; man seems to have neither the wit or the will to tackle it. Some cannot even see there is a problem.

That is the background to this piece. It is a prayer for sanity, an appeal to a higher authority, a cry in the wilderness to a god who may or may not be there. It is emphatically not a conventionally Christian piece: Christianity long ago betrayed the name of Christ, and its record in history is dismal. But the form of the Mass has many resonances for me, many expressive (and Iconic) possibilities. There is, it will be noticed, no Credo.

Missa Tiburtina was begun in Tivoli, near Rome. The Latin name for Tivoli was Tibur - hence the title. While listening to it, it is worth reflecting that in course of the twenty minutes, six hundred children will have died (directly or indirectly) of starvation.

© Giles Swayne

Score sample

  • Ensemble
    BBC Singers
    David Goode / Philippa Davies
    Stephen Cleobury
  • Ensemble
    The National Youth Choir of Great Britain / Laudibus
    Michael Bonaventure (organ) / Stephen Wallace (counter-tenor)
    Mike Brewer
  • 13 APR 2018
    St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, USA
    The Esoterics
    Eric Banks, conductor

    Other Dates:
    14 April - Holy Rosary Catholic Church, West Seattle, USA
    15 April - Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma, USA
  • 13 APR 2018
    St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, US
    The Esoterics

    Other Dates:
    14 April - Holy Rosary Catholic Church, West Seattle, US
    15 April - Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma, US
  • 22 SEP 2013
    Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris
    Berkshire Youth Choir
    Peter Asprey, conductor
  • 24 NOV 2012
    Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa
    voces boreales
    Michael Zaugg, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25 November - Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, Montreal
  • 07 JUL 2012
    Cheltenham Festival
    Deerhurst Priory
    Wellensian Consort
    Christopher Finch, conductor
  • 05 NOV 2011
    Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, Ireland
    New Dublin Voices
    Bernie Sherlock, conductor
  • 21 NOV 2009
    Christ Church, Elbow Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Spiritus Chamber Choir
    Timothy Shantz, conductor
  • 25 NOV 2008
    Old Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich, London
    TCM Chamber Choir
    Stephen Jackson, conductor

    Other Dates:
    28 November - Charlton House, London, SE7
  • 17 NOV 2005
    St Saviour's Church, London
    The Illuminati Choir
  • 11 DEC 2004
    Chapter House, York Minster
    Micklegate Singers
    Nicholas Carter, conductor
  • 30 JUN 2003
    Munich Opera Festival
    Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Munich, Germany
    Choir of Clare College Cambridge
    Tim Brown, conductor
  • 14 JUN 2003
    Merton College Oxford
    Matthew Berry, conductor
  • 15 MAR 2002
    St Josephs, Highgate
    Crouch End Festival Chorus
    Ronald Corp, conductor

    Other Dates:
    16 March - St Josephs, Highgate
  • 03 APR 2001
    St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham Street
    City Chamber Choir
    Stephen Jones, conductor

Swayne was also represented by “Missa Tiburtina” from the mid-1980s, which took inspiration from Chief Seattle’s landmark 1854 speech. Here, the chorus sang the expected Latin texts, but onto a screen were projected “diatribes” — unsung subtexts, so to speak, closer in sensibility to the tension and urgency of Swayne’s musical language. “We cry to our unknown god: give us peace, before it is too late,” reads the text accompanying the “Dona nobis pacem.”
Thomas May, Seattle Times,16/04/2018
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