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Whitworth Choir Director Publishes Original Composition of Missa Pacem

Whitworth Choir Director Marc Hafso began composing the Missa Pacem, or Mass of Peace, 10 years ago while teaching and living in Canada. He had been looking for a particular setting of the "Credo" section for a concert. Unable to find a suitable piece, he decided to write the movement himself. Hafso then composed the other four movements in partial fulfillment of his doctoral degree at Michigan State University. Hafso's Missa Pacem will be published in sections later this year by Colla Voce Music, Inc., of Indianapolis. Settings of this five-section Latin text cover the entire history of Western music, the earliest predating invention of music notation, and continue to be written today.

The Whitworth Choir performed some of the movements of the Hafso's Missa Pacem during the choir's annual Christmas concerts in 2004, '05, and '06. Last year, students approached Hafso and requested that they perform the work in its entirety, which they did during the choir's 2007 Spring Break tour in Colorado. The concert tour marked the debut of the first public performance of the entire Mass in the United States. The choir's April 15 performance of Missa Pacem at St. Augustine Church in Spokane was recorded and broadcast May 2 on the Spokane Public Radio, KPBX 91.1 FM program "Vox Humana: A Celebration of the Human Singing Voice," as part of a three-part series about the Mass, which is the largest, most extensive choral genre.

"It's often challenging for artists to find people who are willing to perform their work for the public," Hafso says. "I am very blessed and fortunate to receive and respond to students' requests to perform the piece."

The Missa Pacem shares common threads with previously composed masses, including the use of plainsong-like melodies, which hearken back to the first masses celebrated in the Middle Ages. Hafso also put a modern twist on the piece by incorporating dissonance and half-sung, half-whispered passages that would not normally be present in masses of earlier periods.

Hafso and his wife, Judy Pearson Hafso, collaborate on many compositions that are usually aimed at church choirs, but the Mass, which Hafso composed alone, reflects a more academic orientation than other works the pair has written and published, and is aimed at strong high-school, undergraduate-university, and community choirs.

"After having performed this piece, choir students will understand and appreciate the Mass in other concert and worship settings in a new and special way," Hafso says.

Hafso is director of choral and vocal activities, professor of music and director of the Whitworth Choir. He is also a guest conductor, guest soloist, clinician and adjudicator.
Hafso came to Whitworth in 2003 from Augustana University, in Alberta, where he developed a nationally recognized choral program. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards recognizing his teaching, creative work, service and conducting, including Augustana's Betty Ostenrud Award; a Pacific Lutheran Centennial Alumni Recognition Award; a Government of Alberta Achievement Award; an Alberta Choral Federation 2001 Con Spirito Award; and the 1994 Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Prize in Conducting from the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Foundation.

In Canada, he served regional and national choral communities as a member of the boards of the Alberta Choral Federation and the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors and as chairperson of Podium 2000, the National Conference of ACCC. Currently, he serves as a regional representative for the Washington State Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.

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