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The Keening was only the second of MacMillan’s orchestral works, written between 1985–87 when he was a student of John Casken at the University of Durham. The composer explains that ‘keening’ is a form of vocal lament associated with mourning, found in folk traditions of Ireland, northern Scotland and other cultures. Much of this work is based on the Gaelic lament tune ‘Great is the Cause of My Sorrow’, often known as ‘Murt Ghlinne Comhann’ (The Lament for Glencoe). This 25-minute score was withheld by the composer until 2010, and it received its first performance in 2014, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the composer’s direction. A significant addition to the orchestral repertoire by one the leading composers of today.

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