DONGRYUL LEE


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Missa Laudato Si’ (2023–25)
for Six Singers, SATB Chorus, and 12 Instruments
여섯명의 솔로이스트, 콰이어, 열 두 악기를 위한, “찬미받으소서 미사"

”Sister [Mother Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.
The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
Pope Francis, Laudato si’



Duration: ca. 35 minutes
Image: Br. Erspamer, OBE. Used with permission.

Premiere of the first movement, Kyrie Eleision:
The EcoVoice Project, Ignatian Voices, University Singers, and University Chorale
Kirsten Hedegaard, conductor
Sunday, Apr 21, 2024 at 3:00 PM (CT), Madonna della Strada Chapel, Chicago

World premiere of the whole cycle:
The EcoVoice Project, New Earth Ensemble, Ignatian Voices, and University Chorale
Kirsten Hedegaard, conductor
October 2024, Madonna della Strada Chapel, Chicago


Program notes–Missa Laudato Si’ (ver. Mar 5 2024) –Short version

In 2015, Pope Francis shared a message in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ where he deplored: “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).” In the treatise, Pope Francis addresses the present ecological crisis not in poetic and spiritual ways. Instead, he analyzes the crisis in somewhat a cold, practical, rational, and scientific manner, aiming to confront it directly, understand its true nature, and promote ecological education and spirituality. He emphasizes the importance of engaging deeply with the best available scientific research as a foundation for ethical and spiritual growth. Pope Francis suggests looking to St. Francis of Assisi as a guiding example “par excellence of care for the vulnerable”, whose life offer valuable insights into living harmoniously with the environment.

In this mass, I aim to follow Pope Francis’ approach in his encyclical. Initially, I want my message to be direct and straighborward, removing euphemisms, metaphors, ornamentations, and indirect symbolisms. As Pope Francis emphasized, the environmental crisis is not just about politics and economy—it’s about our lives. He noted: “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance.”

The first movement, Kyrie eleison, is an overture in the form of musical theatre/documentary, where multiple musical events, objects, and narratives coincide. It includes an image of melting glaciers, which is spouted from the Schumann resonance of the earth—an electromagnetic low frequency ‘breath’ of the earth, which is represented as a huge chord. It also features desperate narratives of already extinct, dying, or critically endangered species from the RedList, morphing spectrograms of consonance and vowel changes in the sounds of Kyrie—[k] [iː] [r] [i] [e], and Buddhist-chanting-like callings in the ‘Christe’ section. In Buddhism, one of the most prevalent ways of chanting is repeatedly saying the name of Amitābha (아미타불, 阿彌陀佛), similar to the Catholic’s Holy Rosary Prayer. 

All of these quite apocalyptic musical sceneries are supported by the overall dramatic and harmonic soundscape of the movement, reminiscent of the meteoric outpourings of the Dies irae openings from canonic requiems. I wanted my students, who will participate in the performance of the first movement, to sense in their bones and appreciate the bodily rawness and vitality of the music, engaging in musical ‘activism’ that hopefully ignites the non-dead green futures still living in their hearts. All the text that I employed in Kyrie eleison is cited from the RedList website at www.iucnredlist.org with their permission, and from A Prayer for Our Earth by Pope Francis.

Missa Laudato Si’ is dedicated in admiration to Kirsten Hedegaard, and the first performance of Kyrie eleison, was given by The EcoVoice Project, Loyola’s Ignatian Voices, University Chorale, and University Singers, conducted by Kirsten Hedegaard, at the Madonna della Strada Chapel on April 21, 2024. The entire mass cycle is planned to be world-premiered on October 2024.



Program notes–Missa Laudato Si’ (ver. Mar 5 2024) –Longer version

Whenever I attended Mass when I was young, there was a magical moment with a golden hue. As an altar server at the time, I had the privilege of observing this timeless moment from the closest distance. It was during the Eucharist, when the priest raised his hand and took the role of Christ, saying “Take, all of you, eat of this.” At the heart of this ritual, I rang a bell when the priest’s hands reached their highest point. Lastly, when the priest recited the words “through him, with him, in him,” I couldn’t quite explain the feeling, but I always loved and admired the mysterious aura of the altar and the ceremony. For me, Mass was more like a spiritual play than a religious ceremony.

When Kirsten approached me in the summer of 2023 with her vision of creating a new mass setting inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, I saw an opportunity to do something profoundly meaningful for myself and the world. It allowed me to engage in what I love most and address what I care about deeply. This was particularly significant at a time when the world was revealing new meanings to me, as I viewed it from a different perspective with my growing child.

Since childhood, I have been deeply concerned about the climate and plastic crises. Whenever I saw plastic utensils and packages, I always thought about the future 1000 years where the abandoned plastic crumbles will be travelling. I personally used the term “climate- blue/plastic-blue” to describe my endless pessimistic thoughts. It is truly shameful to see the immense amount of plastic waste, including Styrofoam dishes and plastic utensils, generated at almost every event I a9end in this country, including recent elementary school events. This issue struck me even when I first arrived in the country 18 years ago at JFK airport, and regrettably, nothing has changed.

In 2015, Pope Francis shared a message in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ where he deplored: “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).” In the treatise, Pope Francis addresses the present ecological crisis not in poetic and spiritual ways. Instead, he analyzes the crisis in somewhat a cold, practical, rational, and scientific manner, aiming to confront it directly, understand its true nature, and promote ecological education and spirituality. He emphasizes the importance of engaging deeply with the best available scientific research as a foundation for ethical and spiritual growth. Pope Francis suggests looking to St. Francis of Assisi as a guiding example “par excellence of care for the vulnerable”, whose life offer valuable insights into living harmoniously with the environment.

In this mass, I aim to follow Pope Francis’ approach in his encyclical. Initially, I want my message to be direct and straighborward, removing euphemisms, metaphors, ornamentations, and indirect symbolisms. As Pope Francis emphasized, the environmental crisis is not just about politics and economy—it’s about our lives. He noted: “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance.”

Since the summer of 2023, I have been collecting texts from various sources, including poems by refugee poets such as Syrian poet Abdullah Kasem Al Yatim (used with permission from Shivaji Das, a former representative of the Malaysian Migrant Worker Poetry Competition. This poem was featured on the UNHCR website on World Refugee Day, with whom I have also communicated), Buddhist death poems, and public speeches by Greta Thunberg. One of her speeches at the EU Parliament on April 16, 2019, was impacbul: “Our civilization is so fragile. It is almost like a castle built in the sand. [...] We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction and the extinction rate is up to ten thousand times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day.”

The first movement, Kyrie eleison, is an overture in the form of musical theatre/documentary, where multiple musical events, objects, and narratives coincide. It includes an image of melting glaciers, which is spouted from the Schumann resonance of the earth—an electromagnetic low frequency ‘breath’ of the earth, which is represented as a huge chord. It also features desperate narratives of already extinct, dying, or critically endangered species from the RedList, morphing spectrograms of consonance and vowel changes in the sounds of Kyrie—[k] [iː] [r] [i] [e], and Buddhist-chanting-like callings in the ‘Christe’ section. In Buddhism, one of the most prevalent ways of chanting is repeatedly saying the name of Amitābha (아미타불, 阿彌陀佛), similar to the Catholic’s Holy Rosary Prayer. The movement also includes an iridescent pastoral heterophonic melody in the ‘elesion’ section, which itself demonstrates the lush continuum of changing spectral profile in its sounds.

All of these quite apocalyptic musical sceneries are supported by the overall dramatic and harmonic soundscape of the movement, reminiscent of the meteoric outpourings of the Dies irae openings from canonic requiems. I wanted my students, who will participate in the performance of the first movement, to sense in their bones and appreciate the bodily rawness and vitality of the music, engaging in musical ‘activism’ that hopefully ignites the non-dead green futures still living in their hearts. All the text that I employed in Kyrie eleison is cited from the RedList website at www.iucnredlist.org with their permission, and from A Prayer for Our Earth by Pope Francis.

Missa Laudato Si’ is dedicated in admiration to Kirsten Hedegaard, and the first performance of Kyrie eleison, was given by The EcoVoice Project, Loyola’s Ignatian Voices, University Chorale, and University Singers, conducted by Kirsten Hedegaard, at the Madonna della Strada Chapel on April 21, 2024. The entire mass cycle is planned to be world-premiered on October 2024.