Monday, June 03, 2013

James MacMillan and Westminster Cathedral Choir

oday a new recording is released of the Choir of Westminster Cathedral under its Master of Music, Martin Baker, singing music by the leading Catholic composer James MacMillan. The recording includes MacMillan’s Tenebrae Responsories as well as other choral works including the Tu es Petrus which opened the Papal Mass at the Cathedral on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in 2010. The CD can be downloaded from Hyperion Records using the following link which includes the booklet and sleeve notes.

James MacMillan was present at Westminster Cathedral yesterday for the first performance of his Mass since he adapted it to use the new English translation. Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi at Westminster coincided with the thirteenth anniversary of the first performance of MacMillan’s Mass in its original version. The Mass is inscribed:
Commissioned for the glory of God in the Millennium Year of Jubilee, and was first performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral, London with Andrew Reid (organ), directed by Martin Baker. The setting was adapted to the new English translation in 2012. The first performance of this version was given on the Feast of Corpus Christi 2013 by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral, with Peter Stevens (organ), directed by Martin Baker.
The Celebrant, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, sang the Preface as well as the entire Eucharistic Prayer to original tones by the composer, with a dramatic crescendo from the organ during the Elevation. The congregational responses at the Memorial Acclamation and after the Doxology also drew on some of the same thematic material which unifies the whole work giving it a great sense of unity and integrity. The Mass is imbued with chant derived from the Alleluia for Corpus Christi, Caro mea.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Martin Baker and James MacMillan

At a reception after Mass hosted by Archbishop Nichols, James MacMillan spoke about the important relationship he has with the Cathedral Choir and emphasized the unique nature of liturgical composition: ‘Composing liturgical music requires a completely different mindset from writing secular music: the music needs to be a vehicle for prayer.’

The Cathedral Choir’s recording of the Mass in its original form, released in 2000, can be downloaded here, as well as all of the Choir’s recordings going back to the early 1980s.

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