James MacMillan: I’ve given up composing for Church

James MacMillan: I’ve given up composing for Church


norman lebrecht

September 27, 2017

The Scottish Catholic composer is fed up with almost half a century’s happy-clappy dumbing down:

I’ve given up the liturgy wars since. I stepped back from parish music involvement and now just sit in the pews, suffering with the rest of the Catholic faithful. I still love writing for choirs, though, and from the sidelines I encourage the application of Gregorian chant in simple, vernacular ways, as well as in Latin. The Orthodox chant I heard in Romania in September was astonishingly beautiful. Perhaps there is a way of incorporating it into choral music for the liturgy here too?

Read full article here.


  • Gustav Mahler says:

    James MacMillan is a very smart and wise man! I appreciate this article very much.

  • Jean says:

    Orthodox chant was used by, among others, Paul Constantinescu in his Byzantine Easter Oratorio (Oratoriul Bizantin de Paste).

    The brave ones might check some clips on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XOYvfMygos

  • MWnyc says:

    Well, he can just write music on liturgical texts for concert choirs, and, likely as not, church choirs of whatever level that want to and can perform his music will.

    And he wondered if Orthodox chant could be incorporated into music for the liturgy in Britain. Well, in Orthodox churches, it is – both traditional chant and new music. (I presume he knows priest and composer Ivan Moody, who could surely fill him in on this.)

  • john f kelly says:

    “”Like most ideas shaped by 1960s Marxist ideology it has proved an utter failure. Its greatest tragedy is the wilful, disingenuous de-poeticisation of Catholic worship. The Church has simply aped the secular West’s obsession with “accessibility”, “inclusiveness”, “democracy” and anti-elitism, resulting in the triumph of bad taste, banality and a deflation of the sense of the sacred in the life of the church.””

    I am far from convinced the trend MacMillan refers to is inspired by Marx or any of his followers, but otherwise he’s 100% right in my view. I will not suffer through church services featuring music that sounds like it came out of Paul McCartney’s waste paper basket…………………

  • Anastasie says:

    Hi there,

    I am a Byzantine Catholic and i would suggest leaving the Byzantine (or Orthodox how you put it…) songs for the Eastern Rites. The music which we pray in the East is structured on Eastern Theology and it would sound rather strange in a Latin rite context. Each Church (East/West) should go back to its own roots 🙂 Music is a very powerful expression of one’s spirituality and it should be regarded according to the ecclesial context.

    God bless,