All three of these works fall into the genre of folk masses. The Missa Criolla with Carreras is probably the best known. It was first released as a Philips CD in l988 and more recently was paired up with both the Flamenco Mass and the African Mass on both a Philips CD and a reissue on the Musical Heritage label. This time, however, with the increased popularity of CD + DVD combo packages, Philips has provided a separate DVD with a film that was made in 1990 using a different choir singing the Missa Luba – the Muungano National Choir of Kenya directed by Boniface Mganga. The performance by the choir is shown both indoors and out, and between some of the movements we get to know some of the individuals singing in the work and to see their home villages. There are also intruiging scenes with both African wildlife and various African dances – including the leaping dance of the Masai people. The cinematography is fine, but being done 17 years ago it’s just full screen and not widescreen – which would be so much more appropriate to the sweeping scenes of the veld and nature. Dolby 5.1 is provided along with the usual stereo feed; it uses Universal’s proprietary AMSI-II process to derive a surround sound field out of the original stereo tracks.
All three masses are tuneful and enjoyable, as well as being shorter than the usual concert mass. The film points up the similarities between some of the rhythms of the African dances and the music of the Missa Luba, as well as similarities of a singer with a homemade African harp to blues and jazz performers. Some of the melodies in the Misa criolla are unforgettable, and the Latin American folk instruments such as the charango and accordion in the ensemble add some exotic colors. There is even a harpsichord in one section. The diversity of the work is an invitation, saying “Come to the Church with everything that you are, your flesh and your blood, your culture and your rhythms, your forms of expressions and your universe.” The Misa Flamenca sets the mass sections in Castilian, using religious chants and Spanish folk and gypsy music as major influences. The simple faith and lovely musical expression of all three of these works deserves to be widely heard and appreciated.
– John Sunier