Top UK Catholic composer coming to Christchurch


One of the world’s pre-eminent Catholic conductors/composers, Sir James MacMillan, has added a visit to Christchurch in late July to his other New Zealand engagements. Sir James is coming to this country to conduct the NZSO National Youth Orchestra in Wellington and Auckland, and he accepted an invitation from the Christchurch diocese Sacred Arts Team to visit there.

He will conduct singers in his St Anne’s Mass at the 5.30pm Mass in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on July 23 and will speak later at the Music Centre adjacent to the church. The event runs from 4-8pm, starting with rehearsals.

All parish and school singers and musicians from throughout New Zealand are welcome. To sing with and hear from a leading Catholic composer is indeed a great opportunity for anyone involved in Catholic music. Christchurch diocese’s Sacred Arts Team advises: Do not miss this unique event. People are advised to book travel and accommodation soon.

Sir James was first internationally recognised in 1990. His prolific work has since been performed and broadcast around the world. He was composer/ conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009 and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie until 2013.

He composed a congregational setting of the Mass which was used when Pope Benedict XVI visited the UK to beatify Blessed John Henry Newman. A CD of Sir James’ work was recently featuring in the top ten on Radio New Zealand Concert’s Classical Chart. Christchurch’s Catholic Cathedral Choir and Orchestra was privileged to be conducted by Sir James on their visit to his parish church in Glasgow in 2015.

The composer/conductor is an ardent Catholic and his music reflects his faith, Scottish heritage, social conscience and close connection with Celtic folk music. He is an articulate commentator on the Church’s sacred music, underpinned by his understanding of what the Church asks of her musicians, particularly in the post-Vatican II context.

Sir James is convinced that “the most authentic way forward for Catholic music, is to combine the participatory ethos of Vatican II with the deep history and traditions of the music of the Church”. He is encouraged by the more recent realisation that there are such considerations as “good and bad practice, authentic and inauthentic approaches, attributes of holiness, goodness of form and universality”. He observes that “these considerations should always be at the forefront of the minds of anyone who is responsible for the liturgy, whether priest or people”. He asks the question: “Can we be inspired to reach out to the objective beauty of a timeless, archetypal Catholic praise?”

For further information or to register interest please email kjoblin@chch.

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