Author Archive

Review of 2018

January 2nd, 2019 No comments

2018 was a slightly different year for me, still full of successes across my professional life, but one with a very different focus from previous. As a composer, the highlight was the commission, performance, broadcast and recording of Ave Maria, mater Dei a new work commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for The Sixteen. The performance by The Sixteen and the choristers of Eton College, in the chapel at Eton in May was a real highlight, and one that will stay in the memory for a long time. The critical response to the piece has been overwhelmingly positive and I look forward to other choirs trying the piece out in future concerts. Other highlights saw the commission and broadcast of my Fourth Service at this year’s London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, as well as premieres and performances in the USA, Poland, Holland and Ireland.

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On Bob Chilcott’s ‘The Shepherd’s Carol’…

December 19th, 2018 No comments

As always, I try to write a festive blog entry every year in the vain hope that it might be the apex of someone’s holiday season; the signal that Christmas has really started, and the festivities can begin. I’m joking. I do it because I love Christmas music and I’m stuck into a pattern of doing this every year. But it gets harder and harder each time to find interesting music to write about, particularly because as time passes I know more and more of the composers who’s pieces I might consider – it becomes harder to be objective. But then I don’t know Bob Chilcott, so I thought I’d write about his lovely The Shepherd’s Carol, one the most beautiful recent carols written for King’s College, Cambridge. Read more…

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New Promo Photos

December 15th, 2018 No comments

I recently had some photos taken of me for a new brochure at the Department of Music at the University of Aberdeen. I’m sort of smiling…


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‘Ave Maria, mater Dei’ on BBC Radio 3 (again!)

December 15th, 2018 No comments

I was thrilled to hear that my recent work Ave Maria, mater Dei was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 again this month, on Record Review. The piece was incredibly well received by the panel of critics and the CD as a whole was one of their Records of the Year. Some of the nice comments about my piece included: ‘The Cooke is remarkable…in the background you get a flickering of candles, a halo of light, in the middle is a male choir adoring the Virgin’; ‘The soprano solos in the Cooke are absolutely beautiful’; ‘An incredibly striking piece’; ‘An angelic halo effect…amazing…beautiful’. I’ll take that.

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On Not Writing Music…

November 26th, 2018 No comments

As the year winds its way to a no-doubt unsatisfactory conclusion, it dawned on me that 2018 has been my least productive year as a composer since I was in my mid-teens – all in all I have composed two works in 2018 at a grand total of fifteen minutes of music. And both of those pieces were finished in January during a brief and regrettably unrepeatable period of fecundity which resulted in four works in six weeks! Now, I have a good reason for not composing more, a 90,000 word book which will be in all good bookshops (who am I kidding…’select university libraries’) in 2019 that has curtailed much compositional activity, but it got me thinking about how little I had actually missed the act of composing, how infrequently I had found myself at a piano with the intention of creating something new – surely that shouldn’t be the case for someone who confesses to having the profession of composer? Should I be worried? Read more…

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‘Ave Maria, mater Dei’ on BBC Radio 3

November 17th, 2018 No comments

It was nice to hear that my recent motet Ave Maria, mater Dei (2017) will be featured on BBC Radio 3 Choir & Organ this Sunday (18/11/18). The recording is the recent release from The Sixteen from their album Star of Heaven which explores the Eton Choirbook with newly composed motets in response to their medieval antecedents.

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‘Raising Sparks: James MacMillan at 60’

November 17th, 2018 No comments

The first fruits of my work on James MacMillan (that has taken up much of the past two years) was recently published in the magazine Cathedral Music (the magazine of the Friends of Cathedral Music). It is a light, general interest article, but I hope it gives a good introduction to the man and his music in preparation for his 60 birthday.

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‘Ave Maria, mater Dei’ in Cumnock and on CD

October 5th, 2018 No comments

The autumn sees the Scottish premiere of my motet Ave Maria, mater Dei (2017) that was first performed by The Sixteen and the Choirboys of Eton College at Eton in May this year. The performers will again be The Sixteen and will take place at The Cumnock Tryst music festival in Ayrshire on Sunday 07 October. The piece has recently been recorded by the choir and will be released on a CD entitled Star of Heaven on The Sixteen’s CORO label in November. Looking further ahead, there are performances of my song-cycle Lakesongs (2011) and my motet Nunc Dimittis (2017) in Aberdeen in November.

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New Videos

September 9th, 2018 No comments

With a forthcoming performance of my song-cycle Lakesongs on the horizon, I thought it a good time to revisit some of my other works in the genre and to create the rolling score videos to accompany these works. I’ve made videos for Lakesongs (2011), Sudden Light (2013) and Four Tonal Songs (1996) as well as the short choral work Wedding Introit (2013) that was performed last month. It was something to do…

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Revised Works

August 18th, 2018 No comments

As most of my creativity this year has been spent on my book, The Music of James MacMillan, I haven’t found the time to compose much, in fact nothing really. I did, however, find the time to revise four early choral works of mine from 2005-2010 which I felt were in need of a bit of love and attention. The four works were mainly from the beginning of my time in Oxford (and earlier): O magnum mysterium (2005), Three Marian Motets (2008), Whither Thou Goest (2008) and God is Our Strength and Refuge (2010). Most of the revisions I made were minor and cosmetic including some word underlay, swapping parts and a general tidy up. I made a bigger change to the middle of Whither Thou Goest as the syncopations had never made any sense. Previous versions of these pieces are still fine to perform from, but the newer versions are a bit better. PAC

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