Sierra: Rollicking, Sensual and Devout

Sierra Missa Latina HRosenbaumNYVSingers edit 1

Conductor Harold Rosenbaum (center) and The New York Virtuoso Singers


“I have conducted over 1,700 concerts in my 43-year career. Few have excited me as much as the one I am conducting on May 15 — the world premiere of the two-piano/24-percussion instrument version of Roberto Sierra’s stunning Missa Latina, an untraditional setting of the liturgy which is simultaneously rollicking, sensual, and devout.”

Harold Rosenbaum, music director of the The New York Virtuoso Singers and The Canticum Novum Singers, enthuses about the upcoming concert at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York at Hunter College. Originally written for chorus and orchestra, Missa Latina is a seven-movement, 75-minute work that was co-commissioned by the National Symphony and The Choral Arts Society of Washington  D.C.; and it premiered in 2006 led by Leonard Slatkin. Rosenbaum continues, “I commissioned Roberto to write a [new] version for choir, two soloists, two pianos and 5 percussionists so that [it could fit affordably into the budget of a smaller ensemble], and because I felt it would receive more performances [with a reduced orchestration]. ISierra Missa Latina voc scoren the hands of a master composer whose works are being performed regularly across the globe, this Grammy-nominated work…will truly leave you dancing in the aisles (hopefully after the performance!).”

Sierra offers some insight about the work’s inspiration. “One of my earliest memories from growing up in Puerto Rico is attending mass and the mystery of hearing a dead language: Latin. I remember how the priest stood at the altar reciting and sometimes intoning ancient texts in something that to me was separate and different from daily life in rural Puerto Rico. When [I was] asked by the National Symphony to write a work for chorus and orchestra, my first thought was a mass. While my approach to the genre stemmed more from the secular/concert-hall (specifically the tradition of 20th century composers such as Stravinsky and Britten), the memories from childhood remained as an important source of inspiration. This is reflected in the title, where Latin has the double meaning of the ancient texts, and the fact that the music brings these into new contexts, those of my musical language where I freely combine popular rhythms and allusions to folk music filtered through my personal approaches to form and harmonic procedures…”

More May news: also happening on May 15th is Opus One’s performance of Fuego de Angel at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center (Sugar Loaf, NY); the Chicago Sinfonietta performs Jubilo on the 21st and 23rd, and on the 22nd, Musica de Camera presents Sierra’s Concerto for Viola at the El Museo del Barrio in New York City.

To learn more about Roberto Sierra, go to or visit Subito Music.

Purchase Roberto Sierra’s music.