On Easter Sunday we’ll be singing Mozart’s Missa Brevis in C, K. 220 (the ‘Sparrow Mass’) with orchestra in our 11am eucharist service.
According to musicologist Daniel Heartz, the Sparrow Mass – like many of Mozart’s masses – was popular with audiences, and it is probably they who gave it its nickname (the violins appear to ‘chirp’ in the middle of the Sanctus and Benedictus movements). Heartz argues that popularity is something Mozart actively strove for: he achieved it with the Sparrow Mass through its ‘songful and euphonious character’, but also through the device of bringing back the initial Kyrie and Christe themes in the ‘Dona nobis pacem’ section of the Agnus Dei. According to Heartz:
‘The ears of Mozart’s worshippers (and of audiences ever since) surely welcomed this rounding off, this sense of completion that brings peace and fulfillment, an achievement that is possible, desirable, and even sublime, attained by purely musical means.’
Singing a Mozart mass on Easter Sunday has become a tradition at Pilgrim, and is something which always causes singers and players great delight – an emotion we hope we are able to convey in full to our congregation!
The photo depicts the choir singing a different Mozart mass on Easter Sunday last year (Missa Brevis in D, K. 194).
Source: David Heartz, 1995, Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School: 1740-1780, W.W. Norton & Company, New York & London.