Cathedral for the Endangered:
a design for a musical climate plea

With Mass for the Endangered, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, writer Nathaniel Bellows, and visual artist Deborah Johnson (aka CandyStations) meld their talents to address the dangers of climate change. Wondering how that plays out? Keep on reading!

Its heartbeat lies in the libretto. Kirkland Snider and Bellows use the form of the traditional Catholic mass to honor animals and plants with endangered environments. But while the Catholic mass is a prayer to the Lord, their Mass for the Endangered speaks to an entirely different kind of god: nature itself. This is when Johnson, herself an animal lover, comes into play, creating visuals for the Mass. She creates six videos (one for every movement) unfolding as a Cathedral of the Cosmos, a sanctuary in the beyond for the animals endangered on earth. Each movement shows a different part of this Cathedral: from heavens-stained-glass windows to altarpieces. When reaching Agnus Dei, the final movement, the sanctuary is shown in its entirety as an eternal home for the endangered.

Composer Kirkland Snider is thrilled by the results: “I was really struck by the thoughtfulness and sensitivity with which her animations inhabit the architecture and pacing of the score. [...] What resulted in ‘Sanctus/Benedictus’ is a visual journey that actually changed the way I hear the music–which after months of obsessive editing, mixing and mastering (after years of writing and revising), is amazing and thrilling.” A peek behind-the-scenes at Johnson’s shows a fascinating blend of digital manipulation and hand-made designs. Looking at the Sanctus/Benedictus for instance, Johnson made an emulsion of Skittles and cream to make clouds of color. She would then photograph and record them to later manipulate them into CGI. “The orange and blue spiral in the bowls in these shots later becomes the animal “eye” we see circa 1:08 in the video”, explains Kirkland Snider.


Discover the Mass for the Endangered live on 23 April in Flagey, Brussels and on 24 April in Tivoli, Utrecht.

[read the full interview of NoneSuch]

Info concert