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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: August 2020

7 - MacMillan’s ‘Mission’ and the Passion Settings


MacMillan has never lost the direct connection with his homeland. While his link with his cultural identity is not refracted through nostalgia for the lost immediacy of the cultural environment, there is a nostalgia present in MacMillan’s work for what has been ‘lost’ to Scottish culture through the Reformation. MacMillan sees as part of his compositional ‘mission’ to engage in ‘acts of remembrance’, restoring what has been lost. This encompasses a wide spectrum of ideas, from the purely musical, to the connection of music to the spiritual, from a response to the local, to an engagement with the national. Two related works which embody these dialectics are the St John and St Luke Passions. The Passion narrative pervades both MacMillan’s religious works and some of his most abstract compositions. His two completed Passions are determinedly international in their reach and yet reflect a personal commitment to the meaning and significance of the religious narrative. These facets are reflected in the choices MacMillan makes in his approach to the setting: the works draw upon the established traditions of this chapter will explores some of the paradoxes that this creates.