O Salutaris Hostia - St Thomas Aquinas (L); The Serenity Prayer - attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (E)
Choral level of difficulty: 3 (5 greatest)
This lovely piece was written for the 150th anniversary of St Aloysius College, Glasgow, the school which MacMillan’s children attended. Both the texts are well-known: O Salutaris Hostia made especially famous by Rossini’s beautiful setting, and Serenity, the well-known text: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.’
The setting is entirely straightforward and is another example of MacMillan’s enviable ability to write music which is approachable in every way to a less experienced group but without sacrificing any of his inimitable musical style. The first section is hymn-like and in four parts, the second (the Serenity text) is a soprano verse over a long held pedal note with simple organ chords (the piece is designed so that it can be played on the manuals alone). This includes MacMillan’s characteristic ornamentation. The following section is a reprise of the first and the next another soprano verse continuing the English text. The final section has the sopranos descanting the English words over the hymn-like harmony from the beginning and building to a strong ending.
This is a very effective and affecting piece which any choir would enjoy adding to its repertoire.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer