From a 15th-century Canterbury pontifical (L)
Choral level of difficulty: 3/4 (5 greatest)
A hugely impressive motet written for the enthronement of the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. Another extensively contrapuntal work this time using MacMillan’s fingerprint ornamental melodic line. There is a wonderfully contrasting homophonic (chordal) section at the point in the text which reads: ‘Blessed be he who has appointed you to rule on the Archbishop’s throne’. This comes complete with ‘coronation mode’ harmony and a Monteverdi-like sweep upwards at the end of the phrase before the ornamental lines resume. MacMillan writes an extraordinary repeated and ever falling series of phrases around the ‘long years in this life’ – so much so that one wonders if there is an element of humour in his treatment of the text. Whatever the real motivation, it is a genuine contrast to the generally high tessitura of the earlier music.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer