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James MacMillan's new
Evening Canticles for choir and organ
have just been premièred at Winchester.
RODERIC DUNNETT talks to
the cathedral organist, David Hill

 

<< Read from the start of the James MacMillan feature

David Hill moved from Westminster Cathedral to be Organist and Master of the Choristers at Winchester Cathedral. He is also the inspiring successor to Sir David Willcocks as Music Director of London's renowned Bach Choir. Last week, at Choral Evensong on 15 July 2000, the cathedral choir gave the world première of MacMillan's new Nunc Dimittis, and also his organ-accompanied setting of the Magnificat. (The orchestral version of the Magnificat was first broadcast by the BBC from Wells Cathedral, Somerset in January this year).

'What the Magnificat shows above all', he says, 'is James's wonderful ability to give his singers eminently singable lines. Both of the Evening Canticles are in his own idiomatic style, and hark back, in different ways, to ancient, time-hallowed chant. He's ensured there's a very strong, well-defined harmonic outline to the vocal lines; but around the voices he weaves quite an acerbic, discordant, challenging organ part : it's very arresting - he deliberately makes it a strong dramatic contrast with the peaceful complacency and restraint of the modal vocal lines. You can hear that quite clearly that in orchestral version too.

'The vocal writing itself is immensely well conceived for the voices. Preparing it with the boys at morning rehearsal, I was instantly amazed at just how easily they were able to deliver what he was asking. He has a natural, instinctive feel for voices, but he's also taken immense care with it. It fits the voice like a glove.

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Copyright © 20 July 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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