"Missa Umbrarum" was composed in 1973 and first performed at the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, California, in May 1974. The performance notes instruct the conductor to begin by pouring red wine into the glasses the chorus will play as they sing.
The text is drawn from the Ordinary of the Mass, 'Ordinarium Massae', the most solemn service of the Roman Catholic church which commemorates and mystically invokes the Last Supper. The Mass is composed of the sections 'Kyrie', 'Gloria', 'Credo', 'Sanctus' and 'Agnus Dei'.
It is scored for a chorus of eight voices, paired in Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. The instruments are wine glasses of various shapes and sizes - four large Bordeaux glasses, four large Burgundy goblets and one very large Burgundy goblet.
"Missa Umbrarum" (Mass of Shadows). This refers to a compositional technique in which the text of the Mass is rendered through a 'sonic shadow' process. The chorus performs on the wine glasses by variously rubbing the rims with moistened fingers; striking the bowls, stems and bases with mallets and knuckles; and tipping the struck glasses to bend notes. Pitch changes per individual glasses are accomplished by sipping the wine. - Daniel Lentz
Reviews"Achieves a totally original blending drawn from exotic forces, an overall sound at once contemporary and evocative of ancient voices under some imagined Gothic roof." - Newsweek