September 25, 2020

Mass for the Endangered

The Mass, with libretto by Nathaniel Bellows, is a celebration of, and elegy for, the natural world, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus, led by Gabriel Crouch.

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Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass for the Endangered, the fourth record in a partnership between New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records, will be released on September 25, 2020. A video for “Sanctus/Benedictus” from the Mass, made by Deborah Johnson/CandyStations, can be seen here. Snider’s Mass, with a libretto by poet/writer Nathaniel Bellows, is a celebration of, and an elegy for, the natural world—animals, plants, insects, the planet itself—an appeal for greater awareness, urgency, and action. Originally commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street, this recording features the English vocal ensemble Gallicantus conducted by Gabriel Crouch.

The six-movement Mass for the Endangered is a rumination on the concept of the traditional Catholic Mass, its fidelity enhanced by Snider’s interpolation of traditional Latin text for the Gloria, Sanctus/Benedictus, and parts of the Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei. For the album art, Bellows created an illustrated triptych of endangered flora and fauna that evoke medieval Christian altarpieces and stained-glass windows.

Snider explains, “The origin of the Mass is rooted in humanity’s concern for itself, expressed through worship of the divine—which, in the Catholic tradition, is a God in the image of man. Nathaniel and I thought it would be interesting to take the Mass’s musical modes of spiritual contemplation and apply them to concern for non-human life—animals, plants, and the environment. There is an appeal to a higher power—for mercy, forgiveness, and intervention—but that appeal is directed not to God but rather to Nature itself.”

Growing up in Princeton, NJ, one-time home of the American Boychoir School, Snider attended that venerable institution’s co-ed summer camp as a youth: “I attended for five summers. I fell in love with choral singing there, and later sang with the Princeton High School Choir, which was at the time one of the most celebrated high school choirs in the country. These experiences were profoundly formative for me, and I learned a lot of the choral repertoire. I felt very at home in that music, but I hadn’t yet had a chance to explore it in my writing in a significant way. The Mass was my first large choral commission, and I was thrilled to immerse myself in memories of singing the Mozart, Brahms, and Fauré Requiems, the Palestrina and Byrd Masses, the Bach chorales.

“Rather than consciously upend those traditions,” she continues, “I wanted to open the gates in my mind between centuries-old European vocal traditions and those of more recent American vernacular persuasion, and write from a place where differing thoughts about line, text, form, and expression could co-exist.”


I. Kyrie
II. Gloria
III. Alleluia
IV. Credo
V. Sanctus/Benedictus
VI. Agnus Dei

December 21, 2020

NPR Deceptive Cadence

"Snider must be recognized as one of today's most compelling composers for the human voice." (Top Ten Albums of 2020)

Tom Huizenga
December 18, 2020

The Nation

"Snider performed a kind of miracle and created a work that honors the format’s tradition while sounding vitally fresh and evokes the sacred in the service of the secular. [Mass for the Endangered is] a gorgeous, moving piece.” (Top Ten Albums of 2020)

David Hajdu
December 16, 2020

The Arts Fuse

[Mass for the Endangered] proves a striking piece, at once unsettling and beautifully direct…a touching and haunting effort, not to mention a timely one.”

Jonathan Blumhofer
November 26, 2020

BBC Music Magazine

Snider’s lucid score [for ‘Mass for the Endangered’] is at once powerful and delicate…[with] striking harmonies, imaginative use of texture [and] counterpoint that is as intricate and exquisite as a spider’s web. This a luminous and arresting disc that conveys its urgent ecological message with power and beauty.”

Kate Wakeling
November 1, 2020

Opera News

"'Mass for the Endangered’ is musically penetrating and textually provocative…On one level, [it] is a requiem for the natural world…But Snider’s colorful music, while not shying away from the pain of this realization, is, at heart, optimistic, offering a sliver of hope that we may yet save what’s left.” (Critic's Choice)

Joanne Sydney Lessner
October 19, 2020


"[Mass for the Endangered's] ethereal choruses and spine-tingling textures, sung brilliantly by the British ensemble Gallicantus, make for challenging but engrossing listening — perfectly fragile music for increasingly fragile circumstances." (Latest/Greatest Releases, October 2020)

Zev Kane
October 16, 2020

The Boston Globe

"American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider adapts the ancient contemplative template of the Catholic Mass to honor and mourn for a burning planet and its wildlife...This premiere recording hands the piece to the luminous British choir Gallicantus." ("10 Reasons to Keep Falling for Classical Music")

Zoë Madonna and Jeremy Eichler
October 13, 2020

New York Magazine/

"A contemporary sensibility pierces an antique haze in Sarah Kirkland Snider’s elaboration of the liturgical text, with a libretto by Nathaniel Bellows. There’s a mournful intensity to the music, performed by vocal ensemble Gallicantus."

Justin Davidson
September 28, 2020

National Public Radio, All Things Considered

"Arresting…[Mass for the Endangered] shines with multi-layered singing of uncommon beauty…Snider asserts her own musical personality as a composer who knows instinctively how to write for the human voice...Through her smart and resplendent exploration of age-old musical formulas, Snider's eco-inspired Mass for the Endangered is a blast from the past that resonates profoundly in the present.”

Tom Huizenga
September 28, 2020

NPR All Things Considered

"Arresting…shines with multi-layered singing of uncommon beauty…Snider asserts her own musical personality as a composer who knows instinctively how to write for the human voice. Through her smart and resplendent exploration of age-old musical formulas, Snider's eco-inspired 'Mass for the Endangered' is a blast from the past that resonates profoundly in the present.”

Tom Huizenga
September 25, 2020

The New Yorker

"Expressively interpreted by Gallicantus, an English choral ensemble, and captured beautifully in a recording jointly released by New Amsterdam and Nonesuch, ['Mass for the Endangered'] proclaims Snider’s technical command and unerring knack for breathtaking beauty."

Steve Smith
September 25, 2020

The Wall Street Journal

“Sarah Kirkland Snider, a rising star on the American compositional scene … describes ['Mass for the Endangered'] as a prayer for endangered wildlife and their imperiled environments. More plea than polemic, the first recording of this riveting work … [is] elegiac and affecting.”

Barbara Jepson
September 25, 2020

The San Francisco Classical Voice

[In Mass for the Endangered], Snider summons from her forces a lustrous wonder... By turns diaphanous and urgent, exultant and wary, the music both immerses us in this perilous era and stirs us to examine our collective conscience… Snider and Bellows’s collaboration is a meeting of questing, unsettled minds.”

Steven Winn
September 25, 2020

Seen and Heard International

"Snider’s Mass is embedded with the mysticism, sonorities, and spaciousness found in church music throughout the ages that imbue it with a sense of timelessness. What’s more, it sounds, feels, and sings like a Mass, resulting in music that is not only beautiful, but fit for liturgical purposes."

Rick Perdian
September 24, 2020

The New York Times

"As with Snider’s past works, the surface details of this “Mass” can be quickly identified as mellifluous and engaging. But there are additional levels to enjoy...This emphatic articulation of purpose, sung by and for other humans, seems to be reaching beyond environmentalism and toward morality at large."

Seth Colter Walls
September 23, 2020


"Snider re-works the mass into a requiem for the environment to spectacular effect...This most accessible and very contemporary work (which just might be the first vegan mass) is deeply grounded in earlier traditions and will be of certain interest to lovers of high-quality choral writing." (4.5 Stars, Editor's Choice)

Lisa MacKinney
August 29, 2020


"[Mass for the Endangered] is so sincere and eloquent in its absorption of the great masses of the past by Bach, Palestrina, etc. - and so sheerly gorgeous - that it is undeniably uplifting...sublime counterpoint and expert architecture."

Jeremy Shatan