Vivian Fine





For a Bust of Erik Satie: A Short Mass




20 minutes


Soprano, contralto (or mezzo), narrator(s), flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, cello, and double bass


Georges Guy (Harry Mathews, trans.)


Harry Matthews


May 11, 1979, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont; Judith Bettina, soprano, Lohanna Albrecht, mezzo-soprano, Georges Guy, Leroy Logan and Harry Mathes, narrators, Sue Ann Kahn, flute, Maurice Pachman, bassoon, Douglas Hedwig, trumpet, Bruce Bonvissuto, trombone, Michael Finckel, cello, Dean Crandall, double bass, and Vivian Fine, conductor


Introit, Psalm, Collect, Gradual, Tract, Sequence, Gospel, and Secret.

program notes

Harry Mathews, a professor in the French department at Bennington, wanted to do an interdisciplinary production that would be part of the celebration for a new art building at the college. Mathews translated text by Georges Guy concerning Erik Satie, which Fine set as Mass for soprano, contralto (or mezzo), narrator(s), flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, cello, and double bass….Three narrators from the drama department, who, according to Fine, were over six feet tall, delivered most of the text, sometimes in English, sometimes in French, and often in translation. The Mass begins with the following solo narration: “Since most of what follows is doggerel, and unrhymed doggerel at that, its performance should be kept within the bounds of a not unpleasant monotony, highlighted occasionally with touches of greater melancholy. A note of seriousness imbued with piety would also be appropriate.”
     Fine’s music captures the spirit of the text perfectly. She wrote simple syllabic melodies accompanied by a one- or two-part instrumental counterpoint, and purely ensemble sections often repeat previously heard vocal lines. The “Collect,” which is spoken by two narrators, ends with the following: “Deliver not thy servant Erik unto the power of Paris Opera houses, but may all Thy holy angels receive him into the Metropolitan Art church of Jesus, the leader he so longed to find.”

–Heidi Von Gunden, The Music of Vivian Fine, Scarecrow Press, 1999