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6 - Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: MacMillan’s St Luke Passion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 August 2020

George Parsons
Affiliation:
London Seminary
Robert Sholl
Affiliation:
Royal Academy of Music, London
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Summary

MacMillan’s St Luke Passion was generated in part through a process that entailed the composer working with a group of theologians from Duke and Cambridge Universities. This, in addition to the fact it sets a biblical text, makes it an eminently suitable work to consider from a distinctively theological point of view. This chapter will focuses on a number of unusual features of the score: for example, the way in which Luke’s passion narrative is set in the wider context of the Annunciation and the Ascension; the assignment of the part of Jesus to a girls’ choir; the manner in which the work invites a strongly gendered (‘feminine’) reading when set in contrast to MacMillan’s (arguably more ‘masculine’) St John Passion; the extensive use of rich tonal material within the narrative sections; and the relatively modest orchestral and choral forces MacMillan deploys in ‘dramatic’ works. Attention will be paid to the extent to which these factors are associated with the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Lucan text itself, and the extent to which they derive from non-Scriptural factors.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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