The composition of music for the text of A Celtic Mass for Peace by Celtic spirituality author, speaker, theologian, and poet J. Philip Newell, is a result of a collaboration born of the meeting of Dr. Newell and Vermont scholar/composer/teacher Sam Guarnaccia. This collaboration has resulted in a trans-Atlantic journey during which the work has evolved from its simple beginning of seven song/chants into its present form of ten sections, a full overture with nine songs and eight musical interludes. It has been performed and celebrated in many forms on both sides of the Atlantic, from simple liturgical settings on the island of Iona, Scotland, to concert settings in Nashville, Cincinnati, Lexington, and Edinburgh among others.
The present recording of ‘A Celtic Mass for Peace, Songs for the Earth’ with musicians and singers from both Scotland and the United States of many diverse heritages, was made in the Vermont landscape where both words and music were written, and is a reflection and expression of the theology/spirituality of liberation and inclusiveness far beyond the confines of any single tradition. From an unusual blend of classical and Celtic instruments, a distinctive harmonic space and melodic texture emerge, a mystical Celtic vocabulary of sound and feeling, beautifully recorded on location by the renowned jazz pianist and recording artist Chuck Eller.
The enclosed booklet contains the complete text of the song lyrics and the eight spoken prayer-songs for which the eight instrumental tracks were written to reflect their substance, spirit, and rhythm. The spoken sections with the interludes as accompaniment will be available as an optional ‘download’ with the voices of Philip and Ali Newell, just as they would be heard in a liturgical celebration. This recording represents one of many possible instrumental and vocal expressions of the words and music, for which scores and parts will soon be available.
From the cover:
When first introduced to Philip Newell’s writing, and captivated by his clear and powerful exposition of the Celtic understanding of the life and teaching of Christ, I began to explore Celtic mythology, history, spiritual traditions, and music. After meeting in the U.S., Philip came to Vermont where I played music for his presentations, and where on the shore of Lake Champlain, he wrote the text for ‘A Celtic Mass for Peace, Songs for the Earth’.
I was deeply inspired by the haunting spirit of the Celtic world, and the power of music to reach and express the indefinable. When invited to set the text to music, the challenge was to express the deep longing and reverence both for the Creation and the Christ of Celtic experience. The melodies should be chant-like, easily sung and repeated, meditative but also expressive of the profound and sometimes complex written texts. From an unusual blend of classical and Celtic instruments, a distinctive harmonic space and melodic texture began to emerge, a mystical Celtic vocabulary of sound and feeling….oriented both from and to the depths of the Earth and the heights of Faith and Imagination, inseparably linked gifts of God to us.
J. Philip Newell…(upon hearing the music for the first time)
There was “delight at the Celtic Mass for Peace being celebrated in Vermont where both the words and the music were forged. But it was more than that. It was as if many of us were hearing something that we have been longing for without necessarily knowing what it is we have been longing for. Certainly it expressed the yearnings for peace that are within us. But in the Celtic Mass for Peace, Songs for the Earth, these longings seemed as vast as the universe and as personal as the most intimate of relationships.”
“It is for all, including those well beyond the bounds of our own religious tradition. It is an offering for the peace of the world and one of my convictions is that if we are to have peace as nations and as religious communities we need to find ways of sharing what is most precious to us without expecting others to become like us.”