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Local composer writes pandemic-inspired piece of music

Published: Dec. 4, 2021 at 9:17 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Local composer Maarten van Ryckevorsel spent two months during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 writing Missa Pandemica, which means ‘mass in the time of a pandemic.’

“Because I had time to do it,” van Ryckevorsel said. “I had nothing else to do and had a real desire to do some music which had no longer become possible for us choral singers.”

‘Missa’ is Latin for ‘mass.’ Masses are pieces of music based on liturgical texts and are sung at Catholic Church services.

Masses contain five parts: the Kyrie, Gloria, Nicene Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

“The final movement is the Agnus Dei / Lamb of God and that combines Latin and English,” van Ryckevorsel said. “It starts out in Latin in the lower voices and then the Sopranos come in with something of a translation of what was just sung by the lower voices.”

In Missa Pandemica, van Ryckevorsel added a 6th component: a reading from the Bible.

“After looking through various books, I came across Psalm 91 which is very, very appropriate to the time because it talks about the pestilence and the plague and the sickness that stalks in the darkness,” van Ryckevorsel said.

Van Ryckevorsel says Missa Pandemica is sung a cappella in English, Greek and Latin. It’s also spoken in rhythm.

Missa Pandemica will be performed by the Vermont Choral Union on Saturday and Sunday. Van Ryckevorsel hopes anyone who hears it will feel that the music conveys what the texts were meant to convey.

“It’s powerful. The texts are powerful, even though they are often recited and are very well known. There’s a lot of material that goes in these texts,” he said.

Missa Pandemica will premiere on Saturday at the First Congregational Church in St. Albans at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Burlington at 3 p.m.

Tickets will be available at the door and online.

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