Scottish Catholic composer James MacMillan has argued that he regards it as his responsibility as an artist who hopes to remain true to a theological dimension in his music to explore and exhibit "the poetic tension between peace and violence" that he holds to be "the essence of the sacrificial narrative."1 His St. John Passion, which premiered at the Barbican in London on April 27, 2008, establishes this dramatic tension by employing a variety of contrasting musical styles. The vocal music ranges from the plainsong-based narration of the "Narrator chorus" to the melismatic solo baritone performing the part of Christus to the massive blocks of sound sometimes employed by the Large chorus that performs all other dramatic roles such as Peter and Pilate. A similar variety of musical styles is found in the orchestral writing that sometimes accompanies the singers and sometimes (as in the final movement) performs without the singers.2 MacMillan's music expresses the drama inherent in the theological dimension of the Passion rather than illustrating the drama based in the action only. For instance, in the first movement the Narrator l o g o s 12 :3 s u m m e r 20 0 9
Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture – Logos: Journal of Catholic Thought & Culture
Published: Jul 9, 2009
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