Penn music student creates composition honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe

Last spring, Scott Ordway, a Benjamin Franklin doctoral fellow in Penn’s Music Department, travelled to Mexico City on a research trip. There he found “warmth, beauty, and friendship amidst a backdrop of violence and tragedy.” He also found the muse for his new composition, “Missa Brevis for the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Ordway says the Mass is an exploration of the complexity he found in Mexico City. “As a foreigner, this duality was both shocking and poignant but, as I would come to learn, [it] lies at the heart of the story of Guadalupe,” he explains. “She is an expression of unqualified love, tenderness and compassion, risen in an historical moment of unchecked destruction and conquest, and she remains a symbol of this duality at the heart of contemporary Mexican culture.”

Ordway, the composer-in-residence at St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 40th and Locust St. in Hamilton Village, was commissioned to compose “Missa Brevis for the Virgin of Guadalupe” by the church as part of its New Music for Sacred Spaces Project. The church choir will perform the composition, along with professional singers and guest musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music at the Festival Mass celebrating the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 at 11 a.m.  

It will receive its world premiere performance the following evening, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 3723 Chestnut St. A $5 to $10 donation is suggested.

“The music itself reflects both the austere severity of Mexican Baroque architecture and the exuberant chaos of North America’s largest metropolis,” Ordway says. “The scoring embodies the inseparability of faith and community-based collaboration in Latin American spirituality.”

Ordway has conducted more than 30 world-premiere performances of orchestral, choral, operatic and chamber works in the past three seasons. “I came to Penn to do just this kind of interdisciplinary work—integrating classical composition with cultural engagement, non-traditional programming and humanistic research,” he says.

Ordway’s work is made possible through the support of the American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter, and Penn’s Office of the Provost, GAPSA and the Latino and Latin American Studies Program at Penn, Partners for Sacred Places and the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral in West Philadelphia.

Originally published on Dec. 10, 2010.

Originally published on December 10, 2010