"Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus" explores the concept of belief through doubt.
The musical tradition of the Mass is continuing to demonstrate its influence in the 21st century. “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus” was nominated for a Grammy Award, in 2021. This liturgical work appeared on the album Carthage, by The Crossing, which was up for consideration in the category of Best Choral Performance.
The work did not win the prize, but its consideration stands as a testament to the endurance of the liturgical texts. Composed by James Primosch, the “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus” draws upon the Renaissance polyphonic style (think Palestrina), while melding it with a certain erratic quality that brings to mind the works of mid-20th century composers.
This juxtaposition of musical styles is mirrored in the text. Unlike a usual Mass setting, this one places the liturgical texts before a poem by Denise Levertov. The poetry, from which the piece draws its name, speaks of the doubt of St. Thomas Didymous — Thomas the apostle — when meeting the risen Christ.
The Crossing writes in the description:
“Primosch celebrates the feast of St. Thomas Didymus—better known as ‘doubting Thomas’—plumbing the depths between unbelief and faith in which true spirituality so often resides.”
The performance is masterful and absolutely deserving of such a distinct honor. The piece is notable for The Crossing’s masterful use of dynamics to produce a particularly emotional atmosphere. We were especially impressed by the incredible high notes of their soprano section.
Listen to the full album on Spotify.