On the 03 March, A New Heaven will be released on Signum Records, this CD is by The Choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford and conducted by Owen Rees. The CD features my work The World on Fire (2015) that was commissioned by the choir for this recording and premiered in November 2015. The CD also featured works by MacMillan, Rutter, Jackson and lots of pieces by younger composers.
I recently spent just over two weeks in the Lake District on a writing break in an attempt to get my research leave kick-started, the place where I stay is lovely, with great views and no internet or phone signal – I got a lot of work done. However, one thing that became very obvious to me very quickly was the sudden lack of music in my life, this was partly due to the aforementioned lack of connectivity, but also to a new laptop (with no saved recordings) and no CDs – it was all too quiet. Now, I don’t really listen to much music on a day-to-day basis due to being surrounded by it in my working life, however once this was removed I began to yearn for something to fill the silence, and stop the irritating thoughts in my head. With this in mind, I decided to head for the nearest record shop (not an easy task in Cumbria) and buy some CDs (it’s not like I could download something…), but then – what to buy? Classical, contemporary, rock, pop, folk, gangsta rap (is that still a thing…)? In the end, I plumped for something that I had loved as a fourteen-year-old, Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, but would it sound quite so good over twenty years later?
Part of being on research leave is that I am giving two key note conference papers this year, one in York in February and one in Warsaw in April. I am giving a paper entitled ‘Let us sleep now: The Rise of the British Secular Requiem’ at the York Conference on Church Music that is to be held at the University of York on the 13-15 February. I’ll be talking about Britten, Delius, Foulds, Poole and Jackson amongst others.
A good week for performances with the Cathedral Singers of Christchurch, Oxford, giving the premiere of the SATB version of Missa Brevis (2011) in service at the cathedral on the 05 January followed shortly after by the premiere of my setting of Laurie Lee’s Twelfth Night (2017) given by the Glasgow Chamber Choir, conducted by Michael Bawtree. This performance will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship at 08.00 on Sunday 08 January.
2016 was another busy year with lots going on in my professional and academic life. Highlights included multiple broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland and Classic FM, O salutaris hostia being published by Schott and lots of good reviews of the CD O Sacrum Convivium (featuring three motets of mine). There were performances across the country and further afield, particularly of How Clear, How Lovely and Ave verum corpus. June saw my motet Judas Mercator Pessimus win the inaugural Gesualdo Six composition prize and another motet Prayer to St Alban performed in the annual St Alban Pilgrimage at St Alban’s Cathedral. I didn’t get as much written of The Music of James MacMillan as I hoped, but I’m on research leave now, so hopefully this year. There are broadcasts, CD releases and commissions already planned for 2017, so hopefully it will be just as successful as 2016, though perhaps without some of the political upheavals! PAC
I try to write something on a festive theme every Christmas with varying degrees of success, usually spending a little time looking at some classic Christmas choral repertoire that continues to inspire and enthuse me – Howells, Warlock, Joubert – the usual stuff. I ventured a little further off the beaten track last year to discuss Harrison Birtwistle’s The Gleam, which is probably one of the most creepy Christmas offerings you are likely to encounter, so I was left wondering where to go this year? Maybe this would be the year that I would write a blog post on Slade, Wizzard or Band Aid? Maybe…or maybe not… Read more…
There was a lovely broadcast on Classic FM last night (23/12/16) of my arrangement of Silent Night performed by the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, conducted by Paul Mealor. Amongst other festive fayre, there were pieces by Paul and by Sarah Rimkus, one of my PhD students.
I have recently been commissioned to write two new pieces for performance next year. The first of which is a setting of Laurie Lee’s Twelfth Night for the Glasgow Chamber Choir, which will be performed on the 8 January in a live broadcast for BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship. The second is a ‘pop-up’ opera for the 2017 SOUND festival, taking the 1715 Jacobite Uprising (one of my anorak interests…) as it’s theme. More information to follow.
This rather fetching video recently appeared showing the forthcoming CD from the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, which will be available to buy from the 20 January (just in time for Burns Night). The CD features my arrangement of Green Grow the Rashes, O! amongst lots of other lovely arrangements and originals.
The Christmas period will see two premieres by Aberdeen choirs – firstly my new setting of I sing of a maiden will be performed by the King’s College Chapel Choir in the University Carol Service in St Machar’s Cathedral on Wednesday 07 December, conducted by David Smith. The University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir will then perform my new arrangement of Silent Night at the University Carol Service at St Marylebone Parish Church, London on Wednesday 21 December. This concert will be recorded by Classic FM and broadcast on Christmas Day.