MESSAGES  (1974)
for SATB Soloists,  Amplified autoharp (optional) through digital processors, 1 Performer on aluminum pan lid and large suspended cymbal, 3 Percussionists: three conga drums, six bongo drums; Soprano (flute) recorders for 6 players; Chorus: S1, S2, A1, A2, T1, T2, B1, B2; Piano, two Performers, and Conductor.  Plus microphones, amplifiers, digital mixer, and two loudspeakers.
Duration: 13:30
Commissioned by the Choral Ensembles of Indiana University, South Bend, and inspired by Luciano Berio’s SINFONIA, this is Priscilla McLean’s most ambitious choral work.  Premiere: April, 1975 by The University Chorale and Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, conducted by Michael Esselstrom for the Festival of New Sounds, director: Barton McLean.  Soloists: Christine Walkowiak, soprano; Paula Rast, alto; Kevin Hanlon, tenor, and David Bray, bass.  

Performance practicality: Medium to advanced difficulty, plus some contemporary notation. The electronics and odd instruments make this piece challenging. Autoharp is not necessary.  The 6 recorders have to be amplified (2 microphones would suffice). The chorus sings slowly-changing or static chords while uttering several languages written out phonetically.  Balances are important, so the (amplified) soloists, who have the most interesting line, can be heard over the percussion, and the recorders can be heard, also.  Texts are excerpts from “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman and poetry by Lao Tsu (6th C.), with additions by McLean.  The work is spiritual and passionate.