Kadosh / Sanctus / Holy

Program note: Kadosh / Sanctus /Holy (2019) for choir and violoncello by James Rolfe

When Ivars Taurins suggested I write a piece to fill one of the missing sections of Lotti’s Mass, I was stumped. I felt that the Mass texts had grown heavy and dusty over millennia of indoor use. Beyond that, I am more drawn to spirituality than to formal religion. Looking more closely, though, I was attracted to the Sanctus, which begins “Holy, holy, holy”. Its text is taken from the Kedusha, a central part of the Jewish Shabbat service, beginning “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”–a magical incantation, one often echoed in literature, notably in Allen Ginsberg’s poem Footnote to Howl. To me, spirituality is about seeing and praising the holiness of creation—in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us—as if that creation were new again, arousing feelings of awe, wonder, joy, gratitude, oneness. I have tried to make music which embodies this: the word kadosh is quietly savoured, caressed, and shared by all the singers in intimate close harmonies; the rest of the music flows from this word. The Hebrew text is sung first; then the Latin text is added next to it, and finally the English. Distinct languages and religions are placed next to each other, in harmony, united in praising the divine.