What is a Kirtan Mass?
We instinctively know (and it has been scientifically proven) that music excites a part of the brain not accessed by spoken word. Music enters us through a different door. This is why music has been an integral part of so many spiritual and religious ceremonies for so long. At the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa, we occasionally perform whole services in the form of call and response devotional chant. We borrow this form and its ancient Sanskrit chants from an Indian music tradition called Kirtan, and include songs and chants in English from our own New Thought Music tradition. As a vocalist in the early music world, I’ve long appreciated performing beautiful Latin Mass settings from the western tradition where for centuries church composers have set sections of the Christian Liturgy -- the Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Credo, etc., to be sung and performed as part of the services. I’ve longed for something similar in our New Thought tradition: an extended, participatory musical work tailored to our spiritual beliefs. Of course we don’t have an ancient Latin Mass or Sanskrit texts of our own to set to music, but we do have our unique form of prayer, five step science of mind spiritual mind treatment. Inspired by the two ancient musical forms, Kirtan from the east and Latin Mass settings from the west, I set out to create an extended work based on our 5 steps of treatment, and that is how this Kirtan Mass came about.
How does it work?
Each movement corresponds to one of the 5 steps of treatment. The piece is performed call and response style with the congregation, as one continuous musical prayer. It lasts about one hour, perfect for a service. Each section begins with prayer support music played as someone speaks an extended version of a step of treatment, followed by the corresponding call and response chant. The next step of treatment is then spoken over prayer support music, the chant sung, and so on. The segues and key relationships between movements are deliberate so please pay close attention to them. I’ve included a “route” page and a musical score for each piece. You will need a lead vocalist, background vocalists or a small choir to lead the congregation in the responses, an electric keyboard with some string pads, acoustic guitar, electric bass, and some sort of percussion. You will hear on our live recording that I chose various patches with the keyboard to fit each piece. Use what you have and what works for the piece. In addition to guitar and keys, I’ve scored the work for tabla, drum set, conga, harp and flute, but I encourage you to make the piece work for you. If you don’t have a harp player, use an additional keyboard with a harp pad, if you don’t have a flute player, use some other sustained wind or string instrument – or again, a keyboard pad. Even with the routes and numbers of repetitions specified, please feel free to adapt the work for the forces and time you have available in your service.
Permission to perform:
There are so many wonderful composers writing songs and chants for our New Thought Movement and I’m glad to contribute this piece to that growing body of work. If you’ve purchased this score (available at Stepping Stones Books And Gifts) you have my permission to reproduce as many copies as needed to perform it in service at your Center. If you are interested in recording this work and in any way distributing the recording or if you would like to order copies of the original live recording from our Center to sell after your service, please contact me so we can work out an arrangement. Should you perform this work, I look forward to hearing feedback from your experience.
Chris Fritzsche, Music Director
Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa
707-546-4543 x 115