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Music Text

Antiphon on the Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary (L)

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Notre Dame Festival Chorus / Carmen-Helena Téllez
Repertoire Note

Choral level of difficulty: 2 (5 greatest)

This motet was commissioned by Sacred Music at Notre Dame (university) in 2012 to honour the Sisters of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame in the USA and premiered by the Notre Dame Festival Chorus. MacMillan took as his text (in Latin) the Antiphon on the Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing by the cross and said ‘Woman, behold your son’ and to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother’.

It is scored for four sopranos and two alto, tenor and bass parts – ten parts in all. It is an extremely touching motet in which the altos sing the chant melody almost throughout the entire work and around them the other parts weave a tapestry of beautifully linear writing. As so often in MacMillan’s work there is a mixture of humming and open singing to words as well as a range of textures which add to the aural variety. The section in which Jesus tells his mother to look at him is emotionally very powerful. A constantly repeated figure for sopranos, tenors and basses surrounds the ongoing chant from the altos which eventually breaks down into a contrapuntal presentation of his beloved disciple to his mother, and the motet ends dramatically as Jesus presents him to his mother as her new son.

This motet is particularly suitable for Passiontide and will be perfectly accessible to many choirs. Whilst, like most of MacMillan’s choral music, there are more challenging elements (the top soprano part having to hum a long, quiet top G, for instance) this work will be well within the grasp of most choirs of reasonable attainment and will be richly enjoyed.

Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer

Recommended Recording

Cappella Nova/Alan Tavener
Linn CKD439

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