Choral level of difficulty: 4 (5 greatest)
James MacMillan has written of this major new work that it “is in one continuous movement but has clearly discernible sections throughout. It begins in a declamatory manner with the soloist, reflecting liturgical practice. The first main section Et in terra pax is boisterous and joyful, with instrumental interjections. The second section Laudamus Te is fast and energetic. This is followed by a slow, reflective solo for the tenor, Domine Deus. The children’s voices are then highlighted in Domine Fili in music that is simple and dance-like. However, a more mysterious accompaniment is later added by the organ, muted trumpets and sliding timps. A climactic instrumental outburst then leads to the final section Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris where the large choir sings quietly and unaccompanied. The opening bold music returns before the final Amen which features the solo voice and the children again.”
This is a festive setting and will make a welcome alternative to John Rutter’s ubiquitous setting for similar forces (brass and organ). MacMillan has, as always, been very practical in making a setting which is an impressive aural experience but which is manageable by competent forces. Instrumentalists have to be agile, but the choirs are given music to sing which will be well within the range of most ambitious groups. There are some extended unaccompanied passages which need to be kept in tune to avoid embarrassment (à la Bruckner E minor Mass), particularly the ‘Qui sedes’ section. The most difficult moment is likely to be finding the cluster chord which is used for ‘garbled recitation’ of the ‘quoniam’ text just before the end.
An exciting and effective new concert work which should be quickly picked up by many choirs.
Repertoire note by Paul Spicer