Although Charles Gounod is well-known for his operas, church music forms a considerable part of his output. Within his church music the "Messes brèves", short masses for unaccompanied choir or with organ accompaniment, form a significant group of works. The present first Messe aux orphéonistes was composed for the Paris Orphéon, a choral society of male workers; Gounod became its chairman in 1852 and wrote numerous works for male voice choir for them. The work was premiered under the composer’s direction on 12 June 1852 by 400 choral singers (adults and children), who formed a large tutti chorus and a small choir with solo parts. The scoring for three unaccompanied male voice parts can be expanded ad libitum by the addition of two soprano parts and organ.