This double choir anthem setting a text from the 12th century Worcester Acclamations was written for St Paul’s Cathedral, London, with the music incorporating breathing space to allow for the cathedral’s natural reverberation. Counterpoint is contrasted with simple harmonies and glowing Alleluias to telling effect, plus melismatic solos for treble/soprano.
The anthem starts from the sopranos and works its way to the basses in plainsong-like phrases that are punctuated by moments of silence - or time for a period of reverberation to subside. MacMillan’s love of the vocal cadenza with its melismatic freedom and characteristic ornamentation is here given to a soprano (or treble) solo. The final Alleluias are wonderfully rich, linearly interacting between the voices, and giving way to the soprano solo who culminates twice on high Bs (piano!), left floating magically in space.
Though posing some challenges, this anthem is worth the necessary effort put into the learning process. As with all MacMillan’s choral music, it will get under the skin of those performing it.