Stabat mater Thursday 7 November 2019, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre: commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers CBE and The Sixteen, performed together with Britten Sinfonia
Messiah Thursday 5 December 2019, Westminster Cathedral
In this its 40th anniversary year, The Sixteen and Harry Christophers CBE give the US premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s highly acclaimed Stabat mater at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre on Thursday 7 November 2019 as part of the Lincoln Center’s Great Performers 2018/19 season.
Commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Christophers and the ensemble, it is performed together with Britten Sinfonia, having premiered it to widespread praise in October 2016. The Sixteen have a longstanding relationship with the composer whose works are strongly influenced by his Scottish heritage and Catholic faith. The work was performed by Christophers, The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia in Rome’s iconic Sistine Chapel in April 2018, becoming the first concert to ever be live broadcast from there and has also been released on The Sixteen’s own award-winning label CORO (Catalogue Number: COR16150).
On 5 December 2019, Christophers and The Sixteen perform a cornerstone of the choral repertoire, Handel’s Messiah at Westminster Cathedral with soloists, countertenor Iestyn Davies, tenor Robert Murray, and bass-baritone Matthew Brook, soprano still to be announced. A choir renowned for its interpretations of sacred music, it is the perfect culmination of the 40th anniversary celebrations and The Sixteen's first London performance of Messiah in seven years. The Sixteen are also joined by alumni from Genesis Sixteen.
Stabat mater is a 13th century Catholic hymn to Mary and has been set to music by many composers over the last six centuries, from Palestrina in 1590 to Arvo Pärt in 1985 but perhaps surprisingly has received few new settings over the past 30 years. Only a small number of composers have tackled the Stabat mater in that time and MacMillan’s setting is the culmination of a collaboration between the composer, John Studzinski and his Genesis Foundation and The Sixteen, following on from Studzinski’s personal request for MacMillan to compose a new setting of the poem to provide a serious spiritual interpretation for the 21st century.
James MacMillan commented: "Conversations with John Studzinski led directly to the composition of my Stabat mater. A great modern humanitarian, inspired by faith John always has interesting and pertinent things to say about the arts and the contemporary world. We agreed that the Stabat mater is a text which captures the sense of grief and anxiety which pervades much of the world today, afflicted as it is by war, despair and mass migration. I have written a number of shorter works for The Sixteen but it was a delight to be invited to write this substantial piece for Harry Christophers and his incredible choristers.”
John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman, Genesis Foundation said: “Truly great works of art are rare. Works that challenge, deeply move and yet are also able to give hope are even rarer. James’s Stabat mater is all that and more. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be at the premiere performance were conscious that we were witnessing the birth of a choral masterpiece that will continue to enthrall audiences for centuries to come. This work was the culmination of the Genesis Foundation’s long partnership with James which has seen other commissions from him alongside others from younger composers whom James has mentored. With our new Stabat mater commission, James has created a work that encompasses the timelessness of Mary’s grief for her dying son, a story as relevant today as it has ever been. Everyone at the Genesis Foundation is indebted to James for moving us, and future generations, so profoundly.”
Harry Christophers, Founder and Conductor of The Sixteen, commented: “James digs deep underneath the surface of this 13th century Marian hymn meditating on Mary’s suffering as she stands at the foot of the cross. He speaks of “a painful world of loss, violence and spiritual desolation” and the score is packed to the full with those intense feelings. It is brilliant that it is already proving its longevity, having been performed in the Sistine Chapel and now receiving it’s US premiere. Our collaboration with the Britten Sinfonia on this project has been a marriage made in heaven – both groups have had long associations with James’s music and both give their all in bringing this score to life.”