Messe un jour ordinaire
3 voix solistes, violon solo, choeur, 14 instruments

Messe un jour ordinaire

Commande d’Etat



« Messe un jour ordinaire » s’articule principalement autour de deux textes : celui du rituel de la messe (« l’Ordinaire de la messe », que l’on chante tous les jours) et la parole dérisoire de Laurence, jeune femme à la dérive, toxicomane ordinaire (aujourd’hui disparue), tirée d’un document filmé de Jean Michel Carré, « Galère de femmes »..

Elle met ainsi en présence une parole collective - parole véhémente, fracassante, sûre de ses valeurs, sûre de son ordre - et une parole individuelle, modeste, minime, humaine et négligeable.


Dans ce contexte tragi-comique et un peu graveleux les mots de la messe (chantés par le choeur et deux solistes éloquents) vont s’user au fur et à mesure de leur répétition jusqu’à se vider de leur sens et ne plus exprimer que quelques réflexes agressifs et conditionnés. « Rex ! Roi-roi, King ! Gloire  ! » « syndrome de la magnificence » caractéristique du groupe.

Le choeur et solistes seront soutenus par un orgue (écriture immuable et primitive), des cuivres tonitruants, une débauche de cloches et quelques pauvres traits d’accordéons.


« Fraîchement » sortie de prison, Laurence tente une série de démarches auprès d’une association caritative où elle obtiendra en consolation une paire de bottines presque à sa taille.  Sa voix est plus modeste, moins puissante, parfois dé-timbrée, bien plus proche des mots ; un violon précède, soutient ou commente ses mots.

Ses demandes vont perturber et agresser le groupe jusqu’à déstabiliser le bon ordre de la liturgie.


A la dérive, de Heilig (Saint), Heiliger Geist (Saint Esprit), Heiliges Reich (Saint Royaume), Heiliges Fleisch (Sainte Viande) à une phrase de Klaus Barbie « Herr Präsident, ich habe nichts zu sagen » (Monsieur le Président je n’ai rien à dire) la liturgie se radicalise jusqu’à se détruire piteusement.




Enfin, sur quelques sons suspendus, la partition se repose sur des mots étranges et doux, simples et forts : « doucement, lorsque le jour monte, les ombres se mettent à danser secrètement, et la lune vertige, avance, à pas de ciel vers l’aube », mots écrits par Nathalie Méfano à qui cette oeuvre est aussi une sorte d’hommage. (B.C.)


Messe un jour ordinaire




    Soprano et ténor lyriques

    Soprano léger

    Violon solo

    Ensemble vocal ou choeur (12 voix minimum)

    Ensemble de 14 instruments:

    Clarinette(s) - Saxophone(s)

    Cor - Trompette - Trombone - Tuba

    2 Percussions*


    3 accordéons

    Harpe - Contrebasse


    Le choeur est écrit pour voix mixtes. L’effectif minimum requiert 12 voix. Il peut atteindre 80 voix.

    * Deux sets d’instruments proposés

    ** L’orgue peut être de facture traditionnelle ou électronique


    free download the score      (fichier compressé)

    Nouvelle version prévue pour septembre 2021

    Création à l'Arsenal de Metz, 28 mai 2022

    Ensembles Les Métaboles, Multilatérale,

    direction : Léo Warynski


    Messe un jour ordinaire sur Youtube




    Messe un jour ordinaire is based on two texts: the "ordinary" of the Mass, i.e. the words chanter in church every day, and the derisive and derisory speech of a young woman called Laurence, an "ordinary" homeless drug addict filmed by Jean-Michel Carré in Galères de femmes and now dead.

    The véhément speech of the group trumpets the righteousness of the groupes values and hierarchies. It is confronted with the speech of the individual - modest, minimal, humane,, bawdy, tragi-comic, and of no consequence whatsoever.

    By dint of being repeated over and over by the choir and the two eloquent soloists, the words of the Mass gradually become divested of meaning, until nothing is expressed apart from a few agressive conditioned refleses (Rex! Toi-roi, King! GLoire!) corresponding to the "glorification syndrome" characteristic of this group.

    The choir and soloists are supported by an unchangingly primitive organ part, a powerful array of brass, a large number of bells of diffent kinds and the old strain of an accordeon.

    "Freshly" released from prison, Laurence makes a series of approaches to a church charity from which she obtains a pair of slightly undersized bottines as a consalation present. Her voice is more modest and less powerful than than the group's. At times it is flat and tuneless, much closer to the words. Her requests gradually disturb and aggravate the group.

    A few extraneous sentences, formally unconnected with the rest, punctuate the liturgy: a stupid liturgic poem: Heilig! Heilg! Herz Jesu! Heiliger Geist (Holy, Holy, Heart of Jesus, Holy Ghost)) ; and the only words spoken by Klaus Barbie during his trial for crimes against humanity: "Herr Präsident, ich habe nichts zu sagen" (Your Honour, I have nothing to say). 

    Finally, the score comes to rest on the strange, gentle, simple, powerful words: doucement, lorsque le jour monte, les ombres se mettent à danser secrètement, et la lune vertige, avance à pas de ciel vers l'aube (gently, when the light of day ascends, the shadows dance secretly, and the moon vertigoes across the heavens towards th dawn). These words are by Nathalie Méfano, to whom this work is also a kind of tribute.


    Bernard Cavanna

    Translated by Roger Greaves



    Press releases following the release of the CD and of the first concerts with 'Messe un jour ordinaire'. (Eucharist on a normal day)
    Le Monde
    March 31st, 1998
    A humanistic gamble under the guise of a satirical Eucharist.
    The long ovation that was awarded to Cavanna at the end of his concert will have no doubt him reminded him of the one he received in the Théâtre des Amandiers for his 'la Confession impudique', a rare contemporary success of the opera world. The foundation of Cavanna's work rests upon a very efficient composition; as astute in the smallest of details as it is in the overall dramatic organization, as sharp in the use of tone colour as it is in the processing of sound (particularly for Laurence who switches between talking, singing, and a very reflective melismatic performance.
    Pierre Gervasoni

    April 22nd, 1996
    Bernard Cavanna's unconventional Eucharist
    The work is not welcoming: it does not seek to allure—the composer admits to hating the saccharine—because it is worrying, and it cannot be reduced to an ideologically generous thesis represented musically.  Through a long and ritualized narration, it strips bare the dichotomy between mass and individual with so simple a roughness, and a harshness reminiscent of a Soutine painting. It is a work of flesh and—as asserted by the booklet—of meat.
    Dominique Druhen

    La Provence
    April 5th, 1998
    Complete shock!
    A work that captivates both thanks to its peak, the outburst of lavish, captivating, and extremely detailed sonorities, as well as its tender and desperate testimonial—much like a violin solo— its sarcasm, its shouts and screams, before exhaustion takes over. A reflective oratorio, beautifully executed, one of those one wishes to enter the repertoire...
    Georges Gallician

    Lettre du Musicien
    September, 1996

    The expressive power of the composition lies first and foremost in the music: the prosodic words, especially those of Laurence, the theatrical contrast that they offer compared to the baroque and bel canto singing of the two other soloists, the originality of the chorals and the finesse in the design of the instrumental ensemble.  Cavanna has composed a solemn, expressionistic, and loud opera, that nonetheless deals with daily occurrences.
    Jacques Bonnaure

    Le Monde
    May 7th, 1996

    ... Cavanna is a gifted, eloquent musician. The Eucharist unfolds through ferocious expressiveness. The timbre combinations are undeniably intense: Cavanna knows how to work a rich palette, almost pompously, without ever dulling your attention. His usage of the brass section is especially commendable.
    Jean-Emmanuel Fousnaquer

    Charente Maritime
    April 24th, 1996
    The extraordinary Eucharist of Bernard Cavanna.
    Cavanna's Eucharist is one of the finest examples of what French contemporary minds are capable of. Far from being an elitist work, this ceaseless control that never stops shifting knows how to entrap the broadest of audiences with its fast-paced addictive rhythm.

    Courrier de l’Ouest
    June 11th, 1996
    Bernard Cavanna's 'Messe un jour ordinaire': shocking!
    What a shock! Such a sonant blizzard! Such stamina! The standing audience could not stop itself from praising this contemporary musical visionary, while the terrible century takes its last breaths.
    Christian Desbois

    La Marseillaise
    April 8th, 1998

    ...a disconcerting overture imbued with sulfur of 'Messe un jour ordinaire' in which Bernard Cavanna disrupts the liturgy with the gushing comments of a young woman... No words could possibly express. What a shock!
    Gabriel Vialle

    La Lettre du Musicien
    April, 1998

    ... 'Messe un jour ordinaire', by the extremely sensitive musician that is Bernard Cavanna, affirms itself as one of the major French musical works marking the end of this century...
    Bruno Serrou

    Le Monde de la Musique
    November, 1994

    The score is breathtaking and wonderfully composed. The duration is of an utter finesse that lasts until an excruciatingly simple coda.
    Dominique Druhen

    Le Monde de la Musique
    May, 2006

    The intense emotions that we experienced when the first version was created were just as powerful as this remake. His composing always aims for clarity, even when the sought goal is chaos.
    Dominique Druhen

    Le Monde de la Musique
    June, 1998

    Bernard Cavanna is not concerned in the least by the stylistic purity of his music. In his 'la Messe un jour ordinaire', he seeks oppositions, shocking annihilations not for their aesthetic merit, but rather for theatrical reasons that have to do with the message he wants to convey. The consequence is a constant technical effort, and the composing in this contemporary 'oratorio' is always efficient, diverse, and astute. The dexterously balanced musical oppositions bestow an undeniable strength on Cavanna...
     Costin Cazaban

    Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (Strasbourg)
    October 9th, 1994

    The music though enticing, it does not direct the attention away from the blasphemous booklet, inspired by the standard Eucharist, Laurence's interview (Died of AIDS) The depiction of the tragedy of AIDS does not warrant blaspheming against the crucifixion.

    Hebdoscope (Strasbourg)
    4th till 11th of October, 1994

    Cavanna's score is impressive, in spite of the reduced size of the ensemble. It reinforces and concretizes the text, often through a
    abundance of tones, timbres and colours. Cavanna, young as he may be, has a lot to say.
    Gabriel Andres

    Musica Falza
    April, 2000

    ...thus, Bernard Cavanna's 'Messe un jour ordinaire', produced by MFA-Radio France, might well be the masterpiece of this modification of sensibilities that abandons the expressive solemnity post-serialism for the cold humour that hooks today's slightly more cynical audience.

    Omer Corlaix