Boosey & Hawkes Composer News

MacMillan and Gorecki at Easter, on BBC TV and Radio

(March 2010)

Leading choral composers Henryk Górecki and James MacMillan are featured on BBC TV and Radio in the weeks leading up to Easter.

Following the success of the first series of BBC TV’s Sacred Music, in which actor and ex-chorister Simon Russell Beale (pictured with MacMillan) and The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers explored sacred choral music from Perotin to Bach, a second series of four programmes will be broadcast on BBC Four TV in the weeks leading up to Easter. These hour-long films take the story of sacred music through the Romantic era up to choral composers of our own time, with Henryk Górecki coupled with Arvo Pärt, and James MacMillan in a trio with John Tavener and John Rutter.

The programme featuring Henryk Górecki, broadcast at 8 pm on Friday 26 March on BBC Four TV, examines how the composer’s works mesh with historical, social and religious events in his native Poland, such as the mounting opposition to Communist rule, and the election of the first Polish Pope, Karol Wojtyla, who had commissioned Górecki’s psalm setting Beatus Vir. Other music featured in the programme includes the chart-topping Symphony No.3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, his Miserere written as a protest against government assaults on Solidarity activists in 1981, the recent Salve, Sidus Polonorum, and his best-known choral work, the Marian anthem Totus Tuus. Together with performances by The Sixteen the film weaves in archive footage of interviews with the composer, visits to folk events in theTatra Mountains, and a performance of the Third Symphony conducted by the composer.

The final programme in the Sacred Music series, featuring Scottish composer James MacMillan, is telecast on Good Friday 2 April on BBC Four at 8 pm. The film examines how composers from different denominations or faith backgrounds approach the challenges and rewards of writing sacred music for a supposedly secular 21st century. Music by MacMillan featured in the programme includes A Child's Prayer, created in memory of the Dunblane massacre, and his extended motet O bone Jesu. As well as appearing with The Sixteen, MacMillan is seen working with the monks at Douai Abbey and with the amateur singers of his local church choir in Glasgow. The Sixteen has performed James MacMillan’s music extensively, including a 2009 Choral Pilgrimage pairing his music with Henry Purcell on a tour of 21 of the UK’s most beautiful cathedrals and churches, with the programme now available as a recording on the Coro label.

James MacMillan’s music can also be heard on BBC Radio 3 on Good Friday 2 April at 7.00 pm with the first broadcast of his St John Passion, live from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. The evangelist chorus is provided by the Choir of King’s College, the large chorus is the Philharmonia Chorus, baritone Mark Stone is Christus, and the BBC Concert Orchestra is conducted by Stephen Cleobury.

This concert forms the climax of a week of events in Cambridge with MacMillan as the resident composer. As an upbeat at 6pm on 30 March MacMillan discusses with James Naughtie the interplay of faith and music in his own work and in contemporary culture. Stephen Cleobury has invited MacMillan to conduct his own Mass, written for Westminster Cathedral, in a liturgical setting within the King’s chapel service on Maundy Thursday. Later that evening a candlelit chamber concert features two MacMillan works for violin and piano, Kiss on Wood and A Different World.

For full information on Easter at King’s visit:

> Further information on Work: St John Passion

Photo: James MacMillan with Sacred Music presenter Simon Russell Beale (credit BBC/Mark Allan)

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