James MacMillan (composer)

Dr James MacMillan, CBE (born on July 16, 1959) is a Scottish classical composer and conductor.


MacMillan was born at Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, but lived in the East Ayrshire town of Cumnock until 1977.

He studied composition at the University of Edinburgh with Rita McAlister, and at Durham University with John Casken, gaining a PhD in 1987. He was a music lecturer at the University of Manchester from 1986–1988. After his studies, MacMillan returned to Scotland, composing prolifically, and becoming Associate Composer with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, working on education projects.

He came to the attention of the classical establishment with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's premiere of "The Confession of Isobel Gowdie" at the Proms in 1990. Isobel Gowdie was one of many women executed for witchcraft in 17th century Scotland. According to the composer, "the work craves absolution and offers Isobel Gowdie the mercy and humanity that was denied her in the last days of her life" ( [http://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/catalogue/cat_detail.asp?musicid=3115 programme note] ).

The work's international acclaim spurred more high-profile commissions, including a percussion concerto for his fellow Scot, Evelyn Glennie. "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" was premiered in 1992 and has become MacMillan's most performed work. He was also asked by Mstislav Rostropovich to compose a violoncello concerto; this was premiered by Rostropovich in 1997.

James MacMillan's compositions are infused with the spiritual and the political. Catholicism has inspired many of his pieces, including many sacred works for choir, e.g. "Magnificat" (1999), and several Masses. This central strand of his life and compositions was marked by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in early 2005, with an unparalleled survey of his music entitled "From Darkness into Light". MacMillan and his wife are lay Dominicans, and he has collaborated with Michael Symmons Roberts, a Catholic poet, and also Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Scottish traditional music has had a profound musical influence, and is frequently discernible in his works. When the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999 after 292 years, MacMillan's fanfare accompanied the Queen into the chamber. Weeks after the opening ceremony, MacMillan launched an outspoken attack on sectarianism in Scotland in a speech entitled "Scotland's Shame". ( [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/415149.stm BBC News] ).

MacMillan's use of (even subliminally) familiar themes, coupled with his colourful orchestration, has made his music more accessible than the more academic style of avant-garde composers. This accessibility is further demonstrated by the range of his liturgical music: his Mass of 2000 was commissioned by Westminster Cathedral and contains sections which are for liturgical use only, some of which the congregation may join in [http://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/catalogue/cat_detail.asp?musicid=1017] ; his "St. Anne's Mass" and "Galloway Mass" do not require advanced musicianship, being designed to be taught to a congregation.

James MacMillan was appointed composer and conductor with the BBC Philharmonic in 2000, and is expected to continue working with them until 2009. His collaboration with Symmons Roberts is continuing with his second opera, based on the ancient Welsh tales of the Mabinogion. The Sacrifice was premiered by Welsh National Opera in Autumn 2007. Sundogs, a large-scale work for chorus a cappella, also on texts by Symmons Roberts was premiered by the Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble in August 2006.

Personal life

MacMillan is married to childhood sweetheart Lynne Frew of Cumnock. They have three offspring: daughters Catherine and Clare, and a son, Aidan.

Key works

*"After the Tryst" (violin + piano - 1988)
*"The Confession of Isobel Gowdie" (orchestra - 1990)
*"The Berserking" (piano concerto - 1990)
*"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" (percussion concerto - 1992)
*"Seven Last Words from the Cross" (cantata: choir and strings - 1993)
*"Inés de Castro" (opera, libretto: John Clifford - 1991-95)
*"Britannia!" (orchestra - 1994)
*"The World's Ransoming" (cor anglais and orchestra - 1997)
*Cello concerto (1997)
*"Symphony: Vigil" (1997)
*"Quickening" (soloists, chorus, orchestra - 1998)
*Mass (choir, organ - 2000)
*"Cello Sonata no2" dedicated to Julian Lloyd Webber
*"The Birds of Rhiannon" (orchestra + optional chorus, text: Michael Symmons Roberts - 2001)
*"O Bone Jesu" (2001), for SSAATTBB + Soli
*Piano concerto No. 2 (2003)
*"A Scotch Bestiary" (organ and orchestra - 2004)
*"Sun-Dogs" (2006)
*The Sacrifice
*St John Passion (2008)

He has recently become a Patron of the London Oratory School Schola Cantorum along with Simon Callow and HRH Princess Michael of Kent.He was appointed CBE in 2004.

External links

* [http://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/composer/composer_main.asp?composerid=2799 James MacMillan at Boosey & Hawkes]
* [http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/acc/macmilln.html unofficial site at Classical Net]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/orchestras/philharmonic/about_us/james_macmillan.shtml BBC Philharmonic profile]

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