Hyperion Records

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

Recordings
'MacMillan: Choral Music' (CDA67867)
MacMillan: Choral Music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67867 
Details

Jubilate Deo
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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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