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To the INDEX of his published
Christopher Willcock is one of the world's leading Catholic composers of liturgical music, but also has a wide range of concert compositions to his credit, notably settings of modern poetry.OCP released his "Who did you see?" collection - in March 2008. Youthful rhythms and World Youth Day themes feature strongly, and the music will be welcomed by the Ignatian-based MAGiS youth movement. As always, the texts are incisive, and include pieces from top Jesuit poets and writers -- Didier Rimaud, Andrew Hamilton and Paul Begheyn. "Spirit-Power" takes up the theme of World Youth Day 2008.
With Michael Leunig, Christopher won the 2006 Classical Music Award for Choral or Vocal Work of the Year with Excerpts from Southern Star, a cycle of nine Christmas carols composed in collaboration with the author, cartoonist Michael Leunig. Southern Star has now been released on CD by ABC Classics with Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, and 5 shorter Christmas pieces, featuring the harpist, Marshall McGuire, and the Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne. Gondwana Voices have also sung excerpts from the work at various times.
Southern Star was commissioned by the Australia Council Music Fund. The carols are for 4-part adult voices, or 3-part children's voices, and accompanied by harp. As the same forces are needed for Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, this can be programmed as a companion-piece.
In July 2006, the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra , under the direction of Jeffrey Crellin, premiered 'Southern Cross Station' which it commissioned to mark the opening of the new Spencer Street railway station (now called Southern Cross Station) in the centre of Melbourne.
In April, Christopher was called to Rome to organise music for the Papal Mass celebrating the Jubilees of the first Jesuit Companions. He spent the first semester of 2006 as the St Thomas More Chair of Jesuit Studies at the University of Western Australia, and delivered the annual Slattery Lecture for the School of Philosophy and Theology at The University of Notre Dame Australia.
The Melbourne Chorale (now Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus) appointed Christopher Willcock for 2004 as their first composer-in-residence. That year they performed two new a cappella pieces, Etiquette with Angels, a setting of a poem by another Australian Jesuit, Andrew Bullen and a setting of the Latin psalm 50, Miserere, which was premiered with well-known settings of the same text by Allegri and Gorecki. The Chorale also performed his John Shaw Neilson Triptych in late July 2004.
Willcock's Akhmatova Requiem for soprano solo, strings and percussion, was first performed in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne in October 2001. This setting of the poem cycle "Requiem" by the great 20th century Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), prompted a Russian listener to enquire how the composer could have known what Leningrad felt like during the Stalin Terror. Six songs from the cycle were then performed during the 2002 Melbourne Festival, again by Merlyn Quaife, soprano, but this time with the Orchestra Victoria Chamber Ensemble under Richard Mills.
Other major works have been performed in recent years by the Tallis Scholars (May 2000) and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (December 1998). Performances of "Gospel Bestiary", an all-Jesuit work commissioned for the Tallis Scholars, were very warmly received. Critics praised it - "a gloriously witty piece", "the choir sounded positively liberated". Christopher Willcock set to music the poem by Andrew Bullen SJ, for the brilliant voices of this a cappella group. Performed again in London in late 2000, "Gospel Bestiary" was acclaimed as the highlight of the night.
Recent offerings on disc:
• "Southern Star" (text: Michael Leunig) on Southern Star [Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne; Marshall McGuire, harpist; Michael Leighton Jones, conductor; (ABC Classics 2007, ABC 476 6349)].
• "Excerpts from Southern Star" (text: Michael Leunig) recorded by Gondwana Voices on Dreamings [Lyn Williams & Mark O'Leary, conductors; (ABC Classics 2006, ABC 476 9093)].
• "Betrayers" (text: Bruce Dawe) for soprano and piano. It can be found on Recital: Australian Art Song [Merlyn Quaife, soprano; Michael Kieran Harvey, piano] (Tall Poppies - TP 155).
• "Pietà" (text: James McAuley) and "Break Of Day" (text: John Shaw Neilson) are to be found on Solitudo: Alone In Darkness [Merlyn Quaife, soprano; Orchestra Victoria, conducted by Richard Mills] (ABC Classics - ABC 465 839-2 - currently unavailable).
Samples of Christopher Willcock's liturgical music are provided, courtesy of his OCP site, on the liturgical music index page. A fuller list of his compositions will be linked here eventually. The Australian Music Centre's library keeps many of his works (published and mss.), which can also be found via their search engine.
A fuller musical biography is available at the Australian Music Centre.
Songs of Prayer--out of print
Trocaire--(included in In Remembrance of You)
To purchase titles from Australia, contact your local church bookshop or Rainbow Books
Jesuit Theological College
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Copyright permissions for liturgical music: OCP (& LicenSing)
Copyright permissions for concert music: Christopher Willcock
Page composed by Paul Fyfe SJ. © 1999-2010
Last modification 2 March 2010
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