Monday, April 13, 2015


In the Spotlight...... James MacMillan


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Born in Scotland in 1959, James MacMillan has rapidly established himself as one of the most successful and popular international composers. His oeuvre is unusual among mainstream contemporary composers in including a high proportion of choral pieces. In this it bears a strong resemblance to the output of Benjamin Britten whose choral works are among his best-loved and most performed. MacMillan’s scores range from the serene, unaccompanied Child’s Prayer, written in memory of the murdered children of Dunblane Primary School, to the grandeur of his orchestral and choral cantata Quickening commissioned by the BBC for the 1999 Proms. James MacMillan is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.

For mixed voices unaccompanied
This is a big piece and intended for a high achieving group (the premiere was given by The Sixteen). The psalm MacMillan sets in Latin is the same as that set by Allegri which has become so popular: ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy’.

Catch Me if you Can

O Radiant Dawn
For SATB choir a cappella
O Radiant Dawn is built from simple separated phrases, and is particularly effective because of its straightforward nature which delivers its message unambiguously. A beautiful, rocking Amen concludes this lovely piece. An entry level piece which would make an effective communion motet or short concert item.

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Dominus dabit benignitatem
For SATB choir a cappella
Dominus dabit benignitatem is a hugely impressive motet starting from the simplest of means and often ending phrases with easily managed clusters. As with all these motets a solo line often predominates which is echoed in other parts. The final Amens are as beautiful as they are unexpected (Basses need a low E flat).

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Cantos Sagrados
For SATB choir and organ or orchestra
This is a powerfully effective work that is not very difficult for the singers (the organ part is quite virtuosic and needs an accomplished player) although there are points in the work that present some challenges. The third movement uses MacMillan’s effective chorale-like vocal parts (with Latin words) which are interspersed by increasingly neurotic interventions from sopranos and then other voices which build to a huge climax as the shots are fired, gradually subsiding to a whispered ‘forgive me compañero’ at the end.

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The Prophecy
For school choir (or high solo voice) and ensemble
The text is taken from The Story of Deirdriu, described by MacMillan as an Irish mythological adventure tale. Yet again, he proves his ability in writing for young people in a way that will stimulate their imaginations and yet be entirely within their grasp as performers. The strongly dramatic writing of the instrumental ensemble contrasts with the straightforward story telling of the vocal parts.

A complete listing of choral works by James MacMillan can be accessed here


Contact your local music retailer or Hal Leonard Australia
for more information on these great works!

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