for solo female voice, rock group, chorus, and orchestra
Note by the Composer on the new 1984 Version: "Written especially for this celebration of American Sacred Music, the new version is dedicated to Lukas Foss.
In 1967, The Last Gospel was my first attempt at writing for chorus and orchestra. From that time on, however, I have written exclusively for orchestra, producing a number of extended works based on Lewis Carroll texts. A fondness for the music in The Last Gospel lingered with me through those Alice-years. However, my dissatisfaction with its original orchestral/choral realization steadily grew. It was, I felt, needlessly difficult to perform especially in terms of its rhythmic complexities. The characteristic eccentricities of motion and gesture could be made clearer, stronger and, paradoxically, even quirkier with simpler, more realistic notation. Though I have preserved the funky, raucous rock group of electric guitars and saxophones, I have completely re-written the orchestral parts adding numerous percussion instruments and an expanded brass and woodwind section. The entire piece has been transposed down a whole step and the choral parts have been reconceived, filled, fleshed-out.
A Word on the Texts: Having been raised a Catholic at a time when these verses ended the Mass (hence the title), it has always had an almost magical resonance. The repetitive incantatori and abstract words which to a child seemed so strange, unknowable, yet irresistible and powerful, continued years later to cast their spell on a young composer.
The most significant unveiling revealed David Del Tredici's "The Last Gospel," which proved a technical tour de force for Margaret Hawkins' Wisconsin Conservatory Symphony Chorus and no less a master-stroke of conducting by Foss.
Incredibly complex, scintillating music that weaves a rock combo into its grand symphonic tapestry, Del Tredici's 15-minute score sweeps wide of the point of "religious" composition.