Ed Rex

Taking Time

James MacMillan has a string of large-scale choral and orchestral works to his name, and last month saw the première of his chamber opera Clemency at Covent Garden. One wonders, then, how he makes time to write a new, small-scale choral piece for the re-opening of St Patrick’s Church in Soho Square.

James MacMillan has a string of large-scale choral and orchestral works to his name, and last month saw the première of his chamber opera Clemency at Covent Garden. One wonders, then, how he makes time to write a new, small-scale choral piece for the re-opening of St Patrick’s Church in Soho Square.

James MacMillan has a string of large-scale choral and orchestral works to his name, and last month saw the première of his chamber opera Clemency at Covent Garden. One wonders, then, how he makes time to write a new, small-scale choral piece for the re-opening of St Patrick’s Church in Soho Square.

The obvious answer is that the opening of a Catholic church in the middle of our increasingly secular capital is important to MacMillan, whose Catholicism is well documented and infuses every note he writes. But, as he tells me, there’s more to it than that: there’s a parallel, he says, between the challenges faced by the Catholic Church and those faced by what he calls ‘a serious music culture’. ‘In a society that can be blinded by the superficial and the immediate — the “McDonald’s-isation” of culture, if you like — the Church brings a repose that society doesn’t immediately see. The parallel in classical music is that, to engage with it fully and fruitfully, you have to give up something similar in the way of sacrificing your time. It takes time — sometimes a lifetime of time — and people are terrified of that.’

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