Macmillan: Mass; A New Song; Christus vincit; A Child’s Prayer,

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COMPOSERS: Macmillan
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Mass; A New Song; Christus vincit; A Child’s Prayer,
PERFORMER: Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker; Andrew Reid (organ)
This fine concert of James MacMillan’s choral music from Westminster Cathedral Choir eloquently confirms the composer’s profound belief in the Catholic faith. In ‘A New Song’, for instance, the choristers highlight MacMillan’s uplifting blend of direct simplicity and stirring grandeur – a stylistic feature exploited in the Mass that forms the centrepiece of the programme.


The Mass (written ‘to the Glory of God in the Millennium Year of Jubilee’) is beautifully judged. Delicious choral effects in the Ordinary, a hypnotic atmosphere in the plainsong-inspired Alleluia and heartfelt devotion in the prayers and acclamations intended for the celebrant and congregation deliver the liturgical message with persuasive realism.


Ethereal singing in ‘Christus vincit’, most notably from the trebles, and thrilling energy in ‘Seinte Mari moder milde’ serenely illustrate this repertoire’s powerful contemplative intensity. Meanwhile, Andrew Reid’s sensitive account of the organ solo ‘Gaudeamus in loci pace’, whose high-pitched ornamental line unfolds over a sustained background, conjures a spiritual tranquillity reminiscent of Messiaen. Ravishing accounts of MacMillan’s movingly optimistic memorial to the Dunblane dead and the wonderfully dreamy ‘Changed’, which cleverly evokes the open strings of the guitar in its final chord, complete a disc that should not be missed. Nicholas Rast