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Hyperion Records

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Angel by William Morris (1834-1896)
Courtesy of Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67867
Recording details: June 2010
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: June 2011
Total duration: 3 minutes 26 seconds

'Wells Cathedral Choir gives a compelling survey of choral pieces by one of Britain's most important composers … MacMillan's musical voice remains breathtakingly distinctive and true. This disc is a worthy recorded tribute to a truly significant figure in contemporary music. Highly recommended' (Choir & Organ)

'The Wells singing is of a consistently high standard (MacMillan's trademark use of melisma is particularly well assimilated) and organist Jonathan Vaughn delivers a scintillating account of Le tombeau de Georges Rouault, the magnificent solo piece which ends this absorbing programme' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Here is another splendid release of recent British choral music from the choir of Wells Cathedral and its superb director Matthew Owens … the choir is, in a word, magnificent. Singing with impressive self-assurance and clearly revelling in MacMillan's uncanny ability to make everything sound perfectly natural even when the technical skills involved are extraordinarily demanding' (International Record Review)

Jubilate Deo
2009; SATB + organ; composed for Wells Cathedral Choir who gave the first performance in 2009; dedicated to Willie Pondexter
author of text
Psalm 100

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Jubilate Deo was written for Wells Cathedral and premiered in May 2009. It is exuberant in its virtuosity but dark-hued in its sound world. The canticle opens with organ semiquavers which begin in the pedals and swirl around in waves of rising and falling patterns throughout the first section. When the voices enter they gradually build from basses to sopranos (trebles) in forceful chant-like phrases. A strong arrival on a plain C minor chord heralds a new section (‘For the Lord is gracious’). Here the choir has staggered entries and strongly ornamental melismas (a number of notes to one syllable). The organ interjects massive blocks of sound between the choir’s phrases continuing into the ‘Gloria’ until the words ‘world without end’ have been sung. A chordal version of the opening semiquaver figure leads to a triumphant conclusion.

The unusually dark-hued nature of this work relates to its dedicatee, Willie Pondexter, a young man from Oklahoma convicted of killing an elderly woman during a robbery at her house in Clarksville, Texas, in 1993. Pondexter was on Death Row in Huntsville, Texas, when a few years later MacMillan struck up what became a most unusual friendship. He visited Pondexter and is even now not certain why he initiated the contact. Pondexter was executed in 2009 and MacMillan admits to not having fully got over it. As he says: ‘It was a strange, bewildering and sad episode altogether.’ This is the background to the mood of the Jubilate Deo and is also a reminder of how ‘hands on’ MacMillan can be in his pursuit of causes, principles and faith, and his reaction to, for instance, political repression, and how these things feed into his music.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2011

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