James macmillan

An intimate, lucid and unforgettable new James MacMillan work

On Tuesday night I was at the world première of a motet by Sir James MacMillan and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more haunting piece of music. It begins in half-light, with pinpricks from the organ so widely spaced that you could be listening to a forbidding tone row from the Second Viennese School. A four-part choir enters in close harmony and you realise that those apparently unrelated notes hint at austerely beautiful chords encircling the melody. In Carmel’s Shade is one of the smallest but brightest jewels in the MacMillan collection There are moments when we could be listening to Palestrina, to César Franck, to Benjamin Britten

The music we need right now: James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio reviewed

The two most depressing words in contemporary classical music? That’s easy: holy minimalism. I know, I know. Lots of people love the stuff, and I wish them joy. But the notion that one simply jettisons the whole western tradition of struggle, of purpose, of wholehearted emotional argument — and that the greatest and most crucial of human questions can be answered by a mush of soothing stylistic mannerisms — well, I’ve tried and so far I just can’t do it. I can’t simply tune in and drop out amid a haze of Yankee Candle harmonies. I hear those static choral clusters and watery melismas, and it feels like being suffocated