James MacMillan – St John Passion

Saturday 16 March 2013   7.00pm   Wells Cathedral

Saturday 23 March 2013   7.30pm   Exeter Cathedral

City of Bath Bach Choir
Exeter Festival Chorus
Wellensian Consort – Choir of the Year 2010
Southern Sinfonia, Alexander Hohenthal Leader
Mark Stone Christus

Nigel Perrin Conductor

Wells Concert Tickets   £10, £12, £16, £18, £20, £22
Bath box office   01225 463362 (or bathboxoffice.org.uk)
Wells Cathedral box office   01749 672773

Exeter Concert Tickets   £12, £17, £22
Book online  Exeter Festival Chorus
Exeter Festival Chorus   0845 600 5441
Exeter Tickets   01392 665885

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The dramatic, contemporary setting of St John’s Gospel by Britain’s greatest living composer, James MacMillan, will be performed for the first time in the West Country. Composed in 2007 and not yet performed outside Britain’s major concert centres because of the forces required and the technical difficulty of the piece, MacMillan’s thrilling St John Passion is now being taken on by City of Bath Bach Choir in collaboration with Exeter Festival Chorus and the Wellensian Consort (BBC Choir of the Year 2010). Renowned baritone Mark Stone will take the role of Christus, and the orchestra is the Southern Sinfonia, which has previously recorded other works of James MacMillan.

Of James MacMillan’s work, Nigel Perrin writes: “MacMillan’s compositions are characterised by their theatrical quality. He is contemporary but very accessible, using an immediately identifiable musical language – there is almost a film score quality to his music. One can identify clear references to Scottish and Celtic folk music, and there is also, for me, a moving sense of MacMillan’s own deeply held Catholic faith. When I’m listening to this St John Passion, I always find myself quite emotional by the end.”

As part of a pioneering mission to bring this compelling work to a wider audience, City of Bath Bach Choir and Exeter Festival Chorus are supported by the Arts Council of England and Somerset-based fashion brand Mulberry. These organisations have made it possible for the choirs to offer free tickets to senior music students at schools and colleges in Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon to attend one of the performances of the St John Passion. In addition, senior students have been invited to attend one of two study days, to work alongside the choirs in understanding and learning aspects of the piece. In all, a rich collaboration to do justice to what will become an iconic work. This is an opportunity for musical learning and engagement not to be missed.

See also the Wells Cathedral website


The Scottish composer, James Macmillan, is probably the most significant composer of this generation. His musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian and Eastern European music.

The work is dedicated to and was premiered by Sir Colin Davis and the LSO in the Barbican on 27 April 2008. It sets new standards in choral writing and, to quote Paul Spicer, is already viewed as a classic, a modern day War Requiem, a seminal work which will mark a very special place in the history of contemporary classical music. This work is a major achievement and a milestone in the development of the choral repertory. To follow in Bach’s footsteps in creating a work which shares a title with one of his great works rather than calling it something new and trendy shows another aspect of the fundamental nature of this work.