Mass for the Endangered: one of the decade’s most gifted composers coming to Portland

  • April 14, 2023

Mass for the Endangered: one of the decade’s most gifted composers coming to Portland


Presented by Oratorio Chorale and the Bowdoin College Chorus

April 29 and 30 in Portland and Brunswick


Brunswick, ME (April 10, 2023) - When young composers take on 1,300 year old musical traditions, exciting things happen. Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass for the Endangeredis a multi-media, 21st-century twist on the Catholic Mass that praises, and prays for, the flora and fauna of our troubled planet. Oratorio Chorale and the Bowdoin College Chorus welcome Snider to Maine for a week of coaching, teaching, and sharing ideas on activism through the arts.


Brooklyn-based Snider is “a rising star on the American compositional scene” (Wall Street Journal), “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork), and “an important representative of 21st-century trends in composition” (New York Classical Review). For Classical Uprising’s artistic director, Emily Isaacson, Snider is a role-model:

“I met Sarah in 2008 when we were both working with Roomful of Teeth. I was struggling to find my way in the male-dominated, frequently toxic world of conducting, and here was Sarah—a brilliant composer, brave entrepreneur, and proud mom—who was building an alternative universe for classical music that was worldly and welcoming. I was so inspired.”


Mass for the Endangered is a celebration of, and an elegy for, the natural world—animals, plants, insects, and the planet itself—and an appeal for greater awareness, urgency, and action. Snider’s chosen musical format, the Catholic Mass, is centuries old, but she has updated the content, adding poetry by Nathaniel Bellows and visual design by Deborah Johnson/CandyStations. The combination of ancient texts, intimate poetry, psychedelic moving images, and "ravishing” music creates an experience that “caresses, haunts, and illuminates the listener" (Six Things I've Heard I Couldn't Live Without).  


Mass for the Endangered has received lofty acclaim: it was named one of the Boston Globe’s “10 Reasons to Keep Falling for Classical Music,” appeared on numerous year-end lists, including NPR and The Nation, and cemented Snider’s prominence among contemporary composers.


Mass for the Endangered can be heard in both Portland and Brunswick. While in residency, Snider will participate in additional workshops and masterclasses at Bowdoin College and the University of Southern Maine.


Mass for the Endangered Performances

April 29 | 5:00 p.m. | Williston-Immanuel United Church, Portland

April 30 | 5:00 p.m. | Studzinski Hall, Bowdoin College, Brunswick*


*This performance will be livestreamed at


All Mass for the Endangered performances are open to the public free of charge but require advance registration. To register, please visit


About the Artists


Emily Isaacson

Dr. Emily Isaacson is fiercely committed to reimagining classical music for today’s audiences. She is founder and artistic director of Classical Uprising, serving over 6,000 musicians and music-lovers through its programs: Oratorio Chorale, Portland Bach Experience, and Horizon Voices. Isaacson was named 2018 Maine Artist of the Year by the Maine Arts Commission, one of 50 Mainers Leading the State by Maine Magazine, and the 2018 face of Maine’s Women’s Work. Isaacson helped to launch Roomful of Teeth, a GRAMMY-winning new vocal music ensemble.In 2015 and 2018 (2021 pending), she won the American Prize in Choral Conducting. She has taught at Clark University and the University of Illinois, and is currently teaching at Bowdoin College. A St. Andrews Society Scholar, Isaacson holds advanced degrees from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Oregon, and the University of Illinois. She lives in Portland, ME with her husband, daughter, and son. 

Sarah Kirkland Snider

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (New York Times), “groundbreaking” (Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). She was recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by the Washington Post and was the winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition. Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic; San Francisco Symphony; National Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra; the Birmingham Royal Ballet; Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo; percussionist Colin Currie; vocalist Shara Nova; eighth blackbird; A Far Cry; and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. Snider’s recent projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement; Mass for the Endangered, a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned prayer for the environment for choir and ensemble; and an opera on 12th-century polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects.

The 22/23 season will see world premieres for Renée Fleming and Will Liverman; Decoda Ensemble; and the Emerson String Quartet, in their final commission, to premiere on their farewell tour. Penelope and Unremembered, her two genre-defying LP song cycles, earned critical acclaim from the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Gramophone Magazine, and Pitchfork, among others. In Fall 2020, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records co-released Snider’s third LP: Mass for the Endangered, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus, to wide critical acclaim. In Fall 2022, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records released The Blue Hour, a collaborative song cycle with composers Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, and Caroline Shaw for vocalist Shara Nova with A Far Cry string orchestra, on text by Carolyn Forché. A founding Co-Artistic Director of Brooklyn-based non-profit New Amsterdam Records, Snider has an M.M. and Artist’s Diploma from the Yale School of Music, and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

About the Oratorio Chorale

Now in its fifth decade, the Oratorio Chorale is a symphonic chorus committed to advancing choral music through exceptional performances as well as educational and community outreach and collaborations. Recent initiatives include establishing a Young Artists Program for gifted high school students and a women’s chorus, Sweetest in the Gale. Oratorio Chorale is a program of Classical Uprising, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to enlivening, strengthening, and connecting communities by creating world-class, immersive classical music experiences for everyone.


About the Bowdoin College Chorus

Currently under the baton of guest conductor Emily Isaacson, the Bowdoin Chorus consists of Bowdoin students and community members and performs a wide range of choral repertoire.


For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:

Emily Southard – Managing Director, Classical Uprising

(207) 200-7933



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Emily Southard

Managing Director, Classical Uprising
Portland  ME  04101 

(207) 200-7933