Tremunt videntes angeli
was written for the dedication service on 9 May 2002 of the Millennium Window by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi in the Resurrection chapel of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. MacMillan takes his text from the fifth-century hymn ‘Aeterne rex altissime’. Simple in form but a step up in complexity from Serenity
, the opening verse is given to tenors and basses over a long bass drone pitched on a low D. The second verse is given similar material but is sung by the upper voices. The verses are separated by a tutti refrain in richly harmonized garb. The doxology, coming out of the second of these refrains, has a soprano (treble) duet in thirds whilst the rest of the choir sings an improvised Alleluia on given pitches. (MacMillan gives a suggested template to follow if they wish.) The refrain brings the work to its conclusion. The use of this improvisation technique, where a murmur of voices each sings its own gentle paean of praise, brings to mind that wonderful image by the poet Alcuin of York (c740–804), translated by the inimitable Helen Waddell, who wrote: ‘… and there was a great silence in heaven. And a thousand thousand saying: “Glory to the Lord King.”’ MacMillan’s trademark ornamental figures characterize the vocal lines of this work and remind us of his Scottish ancestry, the inspirational music of Robert Carver (c1485–c1570), and the influence of Scottish folk music. It is dedicated to Griffith Symmons Roberts, MacMillan’s godson and the youngest son of Michael Symmons Roberts, the poet with whom MacMillan has collaborated extensively.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2011