Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Missa Luba

February is Black (No, that's not it.) Afro-American (Darn, what did the latest memo say? Oh, yeah ...) African-American History Month. We're going to pay tribute to said month, if in our own unique way.

Most of us are familiar with the tradition of Negro spirituals. The "call-and-response" characteristic that is the trademark of this genre can be traced to its origins in Africa. This is evident in the Congolese setting of the Ordinary of the Mass known as the “Missa Luba”. It was actually arranged by a Belgian Franciscan friar by the name of Father Guido Haazen, and originally recorded and performed in 1958 by "Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin", a choir of Congolese children from Kamina.

Unfortunately, the best we could do for video clips were a bunch of white people. But you get the idea.

The first clip is of the Kyrie and Gloria; the second, of the Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. This Mass setting was originally the result of a sort of collective spontaneity. Only afterwords would Haazen actually transcribe it as sheet music. The rest, as they say, is history.

The liner notes of the original recording, which includes a number of native songs from the Congo, can be found at the website of Professor Philip McEldowney of the University of Virginia.

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