Missa Tiburtina

for SATB
21 mins.

Commissioned in 1985 by the International Kodály Society. The Kyrie EleisonSanctusBenedictusAgnus Dei and Dona nobis pacem were first performed at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 21st July 1985 by the International Kodály Youth Choir, conducted by John Poole. The Gloria was added a year later for the first complete performance, which was given in the 1986 Proms by the BBC Singers conducted by Giles Swayne.

Programme notes

The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to earth. All things are connected, like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Ted Perry
(1970 paraphrase of 1854 speech by Chief Seathl)

The rich nations of the world, out of greed, insecurity and muddle, are starving the poor nations to death, destroying the genetic heritage which is the living foundation of our planet’s future, and wasting its resources at a scarcely credible rate. In our age of unbelief we look to man to solve our problems, but this problem is vast, intractable, and self-imposed; man seems to have neither the wit nor the will to tackle it.


Giles Swayne: Convocation
The National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Laudibus
Mike Brewer (conductor)
Michael Bonaventure (organ)
Stephen Wallace (counter-tenor)
Delphian: DCD34033
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
The coming of Saskia Hawkins
Convocation of worms
The Tiglet
Winter solstice carol
Four Passiontide motets

Swayne: Choral Works
Stephen Cleobury (conductor)
BBC Singers
David Goode (organ)
Philippa Davies (flute)
Classics: COLL15312
Three Shakespeare songs
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
Nunc dimittis I
O magnum mysterium
Veni creator II
The Tiger
Ophelia drowning
Missa brevissima


kyrie eleison
The poor
have no voice.
They grow weaker daily
while we gobble up the goodies.
We are the fat boy of the class
who makes himself sick
on too much cake.
Here and now
a poor people
calls upon its god.
They have little hope
their cry will be answered.
They are the disinherited
of our sweet planet,

To destroy
a people’s beliefs
is as terrible as
destroying a rain-forest:
kinder to kill them.
(for Christ’s sake)
Like zombies,
these people mutter,
stammer a sullen monotone.
We hear their secret thoughts:
glory . . . peace . . . have mercy on us . . .
Jesus Christ . . .

(more a curse than a prayer)
The amen screams rebellion,
but collapses,
The odds
are too

The wonders
of heaven and earth –
yippee in excelsis!
The earth-god is dying,
poisone by lil’old us.
His sunshade is tattered and torn,
his forest lungs shrink daily, daily –
the people who lived in their shade
are hunted down like animals.
(sorry – we never realised . . . )
And all because
the great white god,
and Profit, his prophet,
have decreed that Greed
makes the world go round.
unless we learn
to lilve and let live,
we shall be left
with nothing.
(all of us)

Work-songs, play-songs . . .
Against all the odds,
the poor find happiness:
sweeter because it is not bought.
Their laughter is guiltless:
they have enslaved no-one,
polluted nothing,
dreamed up no Armageddon
for their grandchildren.
We rich
have gained the world,
but lost our souls.
I tell you,
the man was right:
no camel will fit
through a needle’s

agnus dei
Some still perform them.
Want something special?
Kill a sheep.
Or a goat.
If you can afford it, an ox.
(even a chicken will do)
It’s a kind of bribe, really:
give the god something nice to eat,
and he may do what you ask him.
Sacrifices are dark, solemn affairs:
nothing sobers like a death.
Blood flows,
words and bodies flow
to another world.
This moment,
is a sacrifice:
we are the victims.

dona nobis pacem
and the sanctity of all living things.
(Give us peace)
The dodo’s waddle,
the praying-mantis of the Bushman –
they are gone forever.
(Give us peace)
Tiger, humming-bird and whale
must surely follow.
(Give us peace)
Peace means sharing what we have
while we still have it.
(Give us peace)
Peace means helping our neighbours,
not crushing them.
(Give us peace)
Peace means understanding.
It means balance.
It means love.
(Give us peace)
Above all, it means growing up.
(Give us peace)
We cry to our unknown god:
Give us peace,
before it is too late.
Giles Swayne 1989