Anonymous, 13th century (E)
Choral level of difficulty: 3 (5 greatest)
This festive choral work was written for the famous Nine Lessons and Carols service at King’s College Cambridge. The Marian text is drawn from a 13th century manuscript in the library of Trinity College Cambridge. The work pits impressive unison outbursts against the distinct timbres of each voice part, richly ornamented, and the organ accompaniment carries echoes of Messiaen. The MacMillan-ornamented alto duet in the central part leads the whole choir to take on similar figures in divisi parts (sopranos, tenors and basses are divided into three). The final section has a huge cry of Precantis! accompanied on full organ out of which a tenor soloist appears. The ending has fragmented phrases for two solo sopranos (or trebles) infantis!
This work shows MacMillan’s instinctive feeling for vocal sonority, for the creation of atmosphere and for presenting a challenge which is perfectly surmountable by amateur groups.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer