Celtic Mass for the Sea


The Celtic Mass for the Sea is now approaching the thirtieth year since it was composed in 1988 and premiered in 1991.  It has been performed numerous times, nationally and internationally in its history including two performances at Carnegie Hall in New York.




“Scott Macmillan and Jennyfer Brickenden’s Celtic Mass for the Sea CD is a runaway best seller in the classical market selling over 20,000 units”

“Celtic Mass for the Sea puts Scott Macmillan up with the Bill Whelan’s and Shaun Davey’s of the world; a Celtic classical composer par excellence”
– John O’Regan; Broadcaster; Limerick; May 1997.

“One of the most significant events in Atlantic Canada in the last decade;”
– Dr. Walter Kemp, Head of Dalhousie University Music Dept., 1994


Now lay thine ear against this golden sand……..
and thou shalt hear the music of the sea


Read full libretto below.






Recent History:   

Celtic Mass for the Sea will be performed on World Oceans Days June 8th in Edmonton Alberta. In celebration of Canada 150 a choir was assembled for a performance in Lunenburg NS on July 2, 2017. In May 2015 Celtic Mass for the Sea returned to Carnegie Hall in New York for a 2nd time, sung by the Canadian Celtic Choir. In June of 2013 Macmillan & Brickenden joined two performances of their iconic work commemorating World Oceans Day, 1st in Toronto, Canada followed by performances in Bonn Germany, while on June 9th 2012, 300 hundred hearty Maritimers braved a foggy wet Halifax evening to join a Community Celebration Seaside, performed his acclaimed works ‘Celtic Mass for the Sea’ & ‘Currents of Sable Island’ commemorating World Oceans Day.

More:  https://www.facebook.com/CelticMassForTheSeaEvents

Celtic Mass for the Sea is a feature interview on Silver Donald Cameron’s environmental web blog The Green Interview.   We are very excited about this and hope you check it out:  http://www.thegreeninterview.com/celtic-mass-interview



Scott in rehearsal for Celtic Colours International Festival 2007


The Libretto

Celtic Mass For The Sea 

Composed in 1988 by Scott Macmillan and Jennyfer Brickenden


Now lay thine ear against this golden sand, And thou shalt hear the music of the sea,

Those hollow tunes it plays against the land- I have lain hours, and fancied in its tone I have heard the languages of ages gone.

East and by North Send thine eyes forth  Over waves with great whales foaming,

Where sportive seals Dance their wild reels   Through mighty floodtides roaming.

He who tramples on the world …………. He tramples on himself.


God of the elements, Have mercy on us. King of the elements, Have mercy on us.

Spirit of the elements,  Close over us……………….Ever eternally

Oh strangely glorious and beautiful sea! Sounding forever mysteriously,

Why are thy billows still rolling on With their wild and sad musical tone?

Why is there never repose for thee? Why slumberest not, oh mighty sea


Glory be to Thee, O God of life, Maker of wond’rous works,

Great bright heaven with its angels, The white-waved sea on earth.


First Reading:

“I”, spoke the sea; the whale haunted sea, the dwelling of seals, the home of creatures: “From the beginning of creation I am without age, without corruption of the earth, I expect no loss from decay for original sin has not touched me”.


Second Reading:

Salmon leap from the womb of the white-sea you look on

They are calves and they are lambs of good colour

You are the fairest of all fish that roam the sea,

Lord of the restless ocean wave.

Brown crab, cockle, oyster, Mussel, “bruiteag”, limpet, lobster,

Bearded mussel, “miaseg”, scallop- Lobster, squid, green crab,

Red crab, sea-shore flea, Whelk, whorl, barnacle And crafty sea-urchin,

Slender sand-eel and razor-fish, Hose-fish, black-snout, limpet-

O, God of the sea, Put weed in the drawing wave

To enrich the ground To shower on us food

That it may please Thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth and restore and continue to us the blessings of the sea. Let not our faults or our frailty bring disaster upon us.

Tiny plant life keeps us living, Sea weeds till we reach our landing.

Food and drink and tiny plant life, Tiny plant life on swelling oceans.

Produce of sea to land, Produce from land to sea;

He who doeth not in time Scant will be his share!

Iur-aibh o hi Iur-aibh o ho

On the hillside I recline  Ho i ho rionn ei-le

Iur-aibh o hi Iur-aibh o ho

Ever yearning for the lost,  Ho i ho rionn ei-le

Iur-aibh o hi Iur-aibh o ho

Ever looking to the west,  Ho i ho rionn ei-le

Iur-aibh o hi Iur-aibh o ho

Where the sun sets in the sea.  Ho i ho rionn ei-le


Creideam ann an Dia an t-Athair

Uile-chumhachdach, Cruithear nèimh agus na talmhainn; (English translation of Gaelic: I believe in God the father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth)

I Arise to-day Through a mighty strength,

The invocation of the Trinity, Through the belief in the threeness,

Through the confession of the oneness, Of the Creator of Creation


To thee, Eternal Mother, Sing we in praise-

Ruler of the Earth and Sea, Of Air and Flame; The Radiant One.

Preserver! Destroyer! Giver of life! We ever praise thy name, Omnipotent!


Come and come is seaweed, Come and come is red sea-ware,

Come is yellow weed, come is tangle, Come is food which the waves enwraps.

(“come” here is a term of praise)

Let all the fish that swim the sea Salmon and tarbot, cod and ling

Bow down their head and bend their knee

To Herring their King! To Herring their King!

He who tramples on the world…………..He tramples on himself.

Agnus Dei

God to enfold me, God to surround me, God in my speaking, God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping, God in my waking, God in my watching, God in my hoping.

God in my life, God in my lips, God in my soul, God in my heart.

Oh strangely glorious and beautiful sea! Sounding forever mysteriously,

Oh strangely glorious and beautiful sea!

Sounding forever…Never reposed…

Why slumberest not, oh mighty sea?

God in my sufficing, God in my slumber, God in mine ever-living soul,

God in my eternity.


Fragrant maiden of the sea, Thou art full of graces,

Be thine own hand on my rudder’s helm, And be mine a good purpose

Towards each creature in creation.

The peace of God, the peace of all, The peace of Columba kindly,

The peace of great seas, The peace of great seas, The peace of great seas be for you.

East and by North Send thine eyes forth, Over waves with great whales foaming,

Where sportive seals Dance their wild reels,  Through mighty floodtides roaming.


The “Celtic Mass For The Sea” was researched, edited and adapted for Mass layout  by Jennyfer Brickenden. The text used in the “Celtic Mass for the Sea”, has largely been taken from ancient oral incantations, rituals and prayers; such as those found in collections like the “Carmina Gadelica” Vol. 1-5; collected, compiled, and metrically translated from Gaelic to English by Alexander Carmicheal.Traditional melodic themes heard in the “Mass” were found in three primary sources; “Songs of the Hebrides”, collected and arranged by Marjorie Kennedy Fraser; “From the Farthest Hebrides” and “Beyond the Hebrides”, collected and edited by Donald A. Fergusson.


Background Info on the Celtic Mass for the Sea

In June of 1988, Scott Macmillan was commissioned through CBC radio producer Markandrew Cardiff and by the CBC Commission Office to create a “Celtic Mass for the Sea”. The instrumentation was to be similar to an earlier project Scott had worked on, “The OCTET”. This time there would be the addition of Irish bagpipes, Celtic Knot (Uileann pipes), celtic harp, a sixty voice choir, string orchestra and a text that would reflect a Celtic perspective of the sea and, at the same time, address our responsibility to our environment. The text was researched, edited and adapted for the Mass layout by Jennyfer Brickenden.

Since ancient times, mankind has sought prayer, meditation, incantations, sacrificial rites, blessings, omens, proverbs, etc. to define and gather strength for both praise and hope. In the “Celtic Mass for the Sea”, a text was compiled based on pre-Christian (pagan, wicca, druid), Christian and secular writings of Celtic origin, much of which dates back to before the 12th century. Up to the 12th century, Celtic Christianity was very pagan in its roots and in its application. Its foundation had been built around the superstitions and cultural heritage that had prevailed long before St. Patrick and St. Columba.

The music bases its themes on traditional Celtic rowing songs, sea-rapture songs, labour songs, funeral chants, pipe and fiddle tunes, as well as many original themes by Scott Macmillan.

During our research we were fortunate to locate highly respected Gaelic scholar Sister Margaret MacDonell, at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS.