Missa Sicca is a "dry" mass, a liturgical ceremony without consecration or communion. It was common in the middle-ages when a priest was unavailable. This theatrical celebration hopes for the eventual erection of a pilgrimage chapel, attached to an established religious institution. The project invokes the favor of Saint Joseph of Nazareth, foster father of Jesus, a carpenter, patron of artisans and manual laborers.
The architecture is by Philip Johnson (who designed the New York State Theater), and has been rendered for the stage by Alain Vaés. It presents the plan and design of a pilgrimage chapel; the design somewhat recalls the early temples of Eastern Orthodoxy whose traditions motivated George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. Missa Sicca is staged as a processional, expressing common need, proposing rules of order in a world of anarchy, anxiety, and violence. This is expressed in a continuous procession of some hundred dancers from New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet. It involves some classic ballet-dancing, an academic language of possibility and praise. The music is sung by a four-part mixed choir: baritone solo, orchestra of winds and brass instruments. The text is sung in English, and the text of the mass proper is that established by the International Committee for the Liturgy.