Domus infelix est(The house is unhappy) (2013)
Boosey & Hawkes
Cumnock Tryst, Cumnock
Nicola Benedetti, violin / The Sixteen
Choral level of difficulty: 1-2 (5 greatest)
This lovely piece was written for the first Cumnock Tryst (James MacMillan’s own festival at Cumnock in East Ayrshire, Scotland, in 2014. It is scored for SATB choir (no divisions) and solo violin. From its Latin title it might be assumed that this was another religious motet but in fact it is a setting of a Jacobite folksong attributed to the 18th century poet, William Mickle, writing of the general sense of despair at the flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie following the disastrous battle of Culloden.
The choral parts of this song are straightforward, chordal and, in essence, hymn-like. The violin solo part needs the services of a skilled violinist whose ability to produce beautiful false harmonics for the first twenty bars and an increasingly important role (via a beguiling quasi bagpipe gigue) leading to a solo ‘cadenza’ will need to be taken into account. The extraordinary (and imaginative) ending sees the violinist given the task of making the special effect of ’little glissandi, like a dove cooing’, as MacMillan directs, and finally taking off ‘into the stratosphere’. A truly magical effect.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer