Macmillan's "Stabat Mater" is hailed as a modern masterpiece.
The Vatican is preparing to host a performance of Sir James MacMillan’s “Stabat Mater,” a work that has been met with critical acclaim since its debut in 2015. The 55-minute show will bring together the same musicians who performed on the original recording: The choral group The Sixteen and the strings of the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Harry Christophers. This event is especially significant, as it will become the first ever to be live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel.
The performance will take place on April 22, after which it will be available to stream from Classic FM’s website for one month.
The event was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation and is a rare honor for the performers, as The Sixteen will become the first professional British choir to sing in the Sistine Chapel in over 20 years. John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, excited for this unique opportunity, stated:
I’m delighted that many hundreds of thousands of people will experience James’ Stabat mater direct from the Sistine Chapel. It is rare for a new, hour-long work of sacred music to move audiences across the world as soon as it has been premiered, but James MacMillan’s Stabat mater is that rarity. A masterpiece, it has instantly connected audiences to the timeless story of Mary’s suffering as she observed the suffering and death of her son Jesus and simultaneously rose to become the Mother of Mankind.
“Stabat Mater” is a hymn to Mary, which portrays the suffering of the Blessed Mother throughout Christ’s Passion. It is unclear whether the hymn was written by Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III, but it is known to have been penned in the 13th century. As with many medieval compositions, the work has been set to music by many composers, including Pergolesi, Rossini, Dvorák, Szymanowski and Poulenc.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has spoken in support of the concert:
The Stabat Mater is a remarkable prayer. It expresses a burning desire for a share in the sufferings of Mary and Jesus. In this it stands in sharp contrast to our contemporary reaction to suffering, which is to flee whilst tossing blame over our shoulder. But this prayer begs for an active share in this suffering. It cries out a willingness, out of love, to stand by those who are suffering, taking their pain into our hearts. It is, radically and remarkably, a mother’s prayer. The composition of James McMillan powerfully explores the intensity and drama of this prayer. Its performance in the Sistine Chapel will be an experience never to be forgotten.