MacMillan at 50 - James MacMillan 50th birthday concert

MacMillan at 50 - James MacMillan 50th birthday concert

One good thing – usually among many – about performing groups, composers and ‘big’ birthdays is that the parties tend to go on for a while. The Scottish Ensemble have been marking their 40th anniversary all season, and while the actual date of James MacMillan’s 50th may have been last summer, the Ensemble have opted for an Easter celebration of his music. Joining with virtuoso chamber choir Tenebrae and music theatre company Cryptic, their collaboration centres on his powerful cantata Seven Last Words from the Cross, originally written for the Scottish Ensemble as a BBC commission in 1993. Under the direction of Cryptic’s artistic director Cathie Boyd, the Ensemble’s new interpretation of the piece brings specially commissioned visuals and lighting to its performance. ‘It is such extraordinary music,’ says Boyd, ‘and James Houston, the video artist we’re working with, and I felt that the most important thing is that the visual images must support the music and not upstage it. They are very slow, very beautiful, but in the background.’

The title of the piece refers to the final words of Christ as he is dying on the cross. Without giving too much away, Boyd explains, ‘We’ve taken a word from each of the movements and played with it visually. The last one, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit, is just amazing – it’s almost like being in heaven.’

Alongside the MacMillan are two further Scottish Ensemble commissions, the moving and atmospheric Tears of the Angels by John Tavener and Nigel Osborne’s more recent Seven Words, Seven Icons, Seven Cities, which receives its first performance in Scotland. All three pieces are intensely personal with the MacMillan, for Boyd, being ‘one of these pieces you know you’ll never forget and which will mark you in the most beautiful way.’

Scottish Ensemble with Tenebrae and Cryptic, City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 2 Apr

Scottish Ensemble: MacMillan at 50 with Tenebrae and Cryptic

The Ensemble joins with chamber choir Tenebrae and music theatre company Cryptic to present a 50th birthday celebration for composer James MacMillan, including MacMillan's master work 'Seven Last Words from the Cross' and works from Tavener and Osborne.

Scottish Ensemble

The ensemble joins forces with chamber choir Tenebrae, with award-winning music theatre pioneers Cryptic providing visuals, in a concert that opens with the Scottish premiere of Nigel Osborne's 'Seven Words, Seven Icons, Seven Cities', followed by John Tavener's 'Tears of the Angel' and James MacMillan's 'Seven Last Words…

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