The Te Deum was written in 2001 to mark the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. It was first performed at matins at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. A wholly original approach to these frequently set and performed words marks out MacMillan’s refreshing lack of ‘Anglican baggage’ in providing a new setting for choirs. It is something of an irony that such an original setting should be of a text serving the Anglican service of matins which, because of extensive liturgical reforms in recent years in the Church of England, now barely exists in its choral form. But this work transcends liturgical pigeon-holing and will serve in any context as yet another example of MacMillan’s desire to induce that ‘sense of silence and sacrifice in the listener’ which brings about transformation. Here, in this work, we have so much of the essential MacMillan: the quiet, contemplative phrases; the decorated solos reminiscent of late medieval and Scottish traditional music; sections of free singing where a phrase is given which is then picked up by other singers and mimicked, canon-like, over long-held vocal and organ chords; the dramatic use of walls of organ sound, especially near the end with whole ‘palm clusters’ on full organ; and beautifully interactive contrapuntal lines. Then, finally, the tenors’ and basses’ simply repeated chords invoking the Almighty to ‘Let me never be confounded’. The organ finishes the work with a reminiscence of a Scottish lament over a sustained chord of G major.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005