UK premiere to mark anniversary of CBSO Chorus

Fortieth anniversary will see James MacMillan’s Passion performed.

The UK premiere of a new piece by the “greatest British composer since Britten” will be performed in a special concert to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the CBSO Chorus next week.

James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion will be performed for the first time in the UK on Thursday, December 4th as part of a programme which includes Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. MacMillan himself will conduct the performance, which will feature the CBSO Chorus and CBSO Youth Chorus. The Britten piece will include Tenor Toby Spence and Richard Watkins, Horn.

An hour-long piece, the St Luke Passion is the result of an international co-commission by Stichting Omroep Muziek/NTR ZaterdagMatinee Amsterdam with assistance from Royal Concertgebouw, together with Duke University, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Soli Deo Gloria Inc, and Britten Sinfonia.. The composition, in Macmillan’s own words, reflects the “special appeal” the Gospel of Luke holds for him and the idea of “a more spiritual, inward, and pared-back approach to create a focused work …”.

It follows on from his enormously successful St John Passion of 2007. MacMillan’s St Luke Passion dispenses with soloists and focuses on the chorus as narrator. Children’s voices represent the voice of Christ; MacMillan says he “wanted to examine (Christ’s) otherness, sanctity and mystery. Employing a children’s choir grants a measure of innocence to Christ as the sacrificial lamb”.

The CBSO Chorus made its concert debut in 1974. Membership is via audition and the chorus attracts amateur singers from throughout the West Midlands and beyond to perform regularly as a body of ‘unpaid professionals’ and undertake a huge range of repertoire with the CBSO, both at home and abroad. Directed by internationally-renowned choral conductor Simon Halsey for over 30 years, the CBSO Chorus also has more than 40 recordings to its credit, including five award-winning releases.

Speaking about the 40th anniversary concert, Simon Halsey said: “It is a huge privilege to be part of this major international collaboration – so typical of the CBSO chorus who have toured, collaborated and initiated new projects, new ideas, new music and new ways of doing things since their foundation 40 years ago. The relationship with James MacMillan goes back many years and will continue for years to come, I’m sure!”