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about composing sacred and liturgical music


When it comes to composing sacred or liturgical music, the leading Scottish composer James MacMillan is certainly no newcomer. As long ago as l983, his setting of Beatus Vir, for seven part choir and organ, was heard at the Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music, directed by that significant commissioner of forward-looking church music, Michael Nicholas.

Cantos Sagrados, which followed in l989, betokened MacMillan's increasing identification - stemming in part from his own religious beliefs - with secular causes, notably the vicious treatment of individuals, especially vulnerable women, by the machines of Inquisitions ancient and modern alike. In Cantos Sagrados, as in his dramatic stagework Busqueda, which touches on similar themes, he mixed sacred texts with extracts from appeals by mothers of the 'Desaparecidos', those who disappeared without trace during the brutal clampdown of Argentina's vicious military regime, just as they did in Pinochet's Chile and under dictatorships elsewhere. The urgency and anger of MacMillan's reaction to this was fired by the campaigning Catholic priesthood of Southern and Central America, which saw it as its duty to make a stance on issues of human rights. Many, perhaps most notably Archbishop Oscar Romero in Central America, paid with their lives.

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Copyright © 6 July 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK



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