More Gloria in excelsis deo

  • Mass

I have spent some time with the text, thinking about different parts of it. There are sections which have much shorter phrases that would seem to sit better with shorter musical phrases. As a result, I have a completely new section for the “Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te” words.

Gloria in excelsis deo

  • Mass

I have been trying out a verse-chorus idea for this part of the Gloria.

I felt that a great burst of joy was needed and a “gloria, gloria” section, bouncing between the upper and lower voices came complete into my mind as I was winding down at the end of the day. I scribbled down some notes and then tried it out this morning. I quite like it – it is a contrast with the “verse” but changes of meter are a feature of many West Gallery tunes and, although this doesn’t change meter as such (although I did try putting this section in two-four time for a while) I think that there is a feeling of such a change. This gloria-gloria section is the first section to be fully harmonised. Interestingly, as I say, it came into my mind complete – I hope it’s not plagiarism!

I have been struggling with the link from “verse” to “chorus” section.

Back to thinking about masses and settings.

  • Mass

The Gloria seems a lot of text to set in one piece… Vivaldi (in one of my favourite works) just set the Gloria, divided into twelve sections.

Clearly this is not going to be a requiem mass – I want it to be a joyful thanksgiving. A full setting of the ordinarium (missa tota) would comprise the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Benedictus and Agnus Dei. A short mass (missa brevis) may only set the Kyrie and the Gloria. Kyrie-Gloria settings were acceptable in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches (including the Lutheran Church) in the 18th century – the period during which West Gallery music was at its height in this country.

Decision made. (Although, knowing me, I might change my mind.) I will try to set the Kyrie and the Gloria… but will subdivide the gloria into different sections.

Another start

  • Mass

I’m setting the Kyrie aside for a while… I feel the need of a really good “tune” – a strong melodic line for this section – many of the tunes in West Gallery hymns are so wonderful and lively. So, I’ve turned my attention to the beginning of the Gloria as a tune has come to mind for “Gloria in excelsis, in excelsis deo”.

Agnus Dei

  • Mass

I have had an idea for a theme for the Agnus Dei section.

Having an idea for this first phrases of the Agnus Dei, I am toying with the idea of using an extended “canon”, probably lasting right the way through the piece. Examples of fuging tunes are a common in West Gallery tradition but extended canons are not – although some tunes, such as Tallis’ Canon persisted into the period. I am wondering whether this style sits well with my idea of writing in the West Gallery genre… Something for me to think about.


  • Mass

I have been spending some time on the Kyrie.  This has progressed quickly since I had an idea for a fugue section for the Christe eleison passage. This is more a of fuging section, which fits well with West Gallery style.

I have harmonized both the Kyrie eleison sections and the Christe eleison section and the scope of the piece is finished. I need to think about the way that the alto/tenor parts enter – I have three variations and have yet to decide how these should be used through the piece – whether entries should be on the second or third beat of the bar – or whether it is okay to change this for different sections as I have it at the moment.

Making a start

  • Mass

Whatever the mass, they all seem to start with the Kyrie, so that’s also the starting point for me.

There is an idea for the melody and also for some harmony. The main “tune” seems to sit well with the basses.

The music

  • Mass

I have been revisiting some West Gallery websites and re-reading about the history and features of the genre.

I do love so many of the hymn-tunes – fun and uplifting.

The West Gallery Music Association website (, the website of the London Gallery Quire ( and the personal website of its musical direction, Dr. Francis Roads, ( all share scores and sound files of West Gallery hymns and anthems and are an amazing resources. Dr. Roads, in particular, has been very generous in the way that he has made his transcriptions and arrangements available as part of his advocacy of music in the West Gallery tradition. I feel that I have learned so much from these sources.

The text

  • Mass

I spent some time looking at the texts set for a choral mass. This has also made me more aware of the different forms of the mass. Interestingly, there seem to be very few “thanksgiving” masses.

A decision

  • Mass

I have long enjoyed the genre of music which has become known as “West Gallery” music. (This was the music of the enthusiastic country parish and non-conformist church choirs and congregations between about 1700 and 1850 – before Victorian sensibilities gentrified the hymnody.) It seems to me that its parallels with folk music of the day, it’s (to me) joyful nature and the fact that it was generally written and performed by amateur musicians make it most suitable for a thanksgiving and, especially, one intended as a gesture of thanks to the ordinary man, woman and child for the extraordinary things they do in their lives.