People have looked for the music of the spheres for centuries. I think Paul Winter has found it. His second annual ''Missa Gaia'' (Mass for Mother Earth), performed at Symphony Hall last Sunday night, captures through music the feeling of a sunrise , of floating in space, of wolves howling at the moon.
But it's more than just pleasant music - it inspires. ''Missa Gaia'' conveys through music the grandeur of God's creation, and the conviction that boundaries between people can be melted. Before the concert began, the audience seemed frazzled with election, assassination, and famine concerns. But by the end, there was a sense of having been knit back together.
Winter is a ''New Age'' activist, a firm believer in the concept that all life - mankind, animals, and earth - makes one harmonious whole. ''Missa Gaia'' is a translation of this activism into a musical call to worship that is both environmental and ecumenical.
He does this by gathering a mini-world on stage. Soloist Susan Osborn sings with the clarity of Joan Baez and the richness of a gospel singer. The 98-member Back Bay Chorale provides a seamless curtain of sound. The Paul Winter Consort plays instruments from around the world, punctuated by Winter on soprano saxophone. Together they produce a blend of reverent liturgical, lively Latin, exuberant gospel, and something that can only be described as celestial. Loon, wolf, and whale sounds contribute their recorded voices as well. Hearing Winter's sax blend perfectly with a wolf whine suddenly expands one's notion of what music really is.
The audience was moved to clap with the music - a rare thing in Boston. It also did not applaud by rote after songs; some songs were so silent that to applaud would have destroyed the mood, and the audience sensed that. At the end, one audience member was overheard to say, ''This is what it must sound like in heaven.''