On May 29, at 12 noon, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will host a webinar with the renowned Scottish Catholic Composer Sir James MacMillan. The two will explore questions such as:

“Who or what is a religious composer today? Does a religious composer only write music for the liturgy? Or can a sense of the numinous be found in all music, as some argue, including secular forms and purely instrumental concert music? Is there a moral dimension to the act of musical composition? Does the work of a composer ever impact on the desire to sustain civic values?”

Sir James MacMillan (b. 1959) has been called “the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation.” His works have been performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York and Los Angeles Philharmoni Orchestras.

Among his Catholic works are a Seven Last Words and a Stabat Mater, which has been called one of the greatest classical works of the 21stCentury. In 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI visited London, MacMillan was invited to compose the music for the Holy Father’s Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

MacMillan gave a very clear-sighted answer to a question posed by interviewer Madeline Kearns in a 2019 interview on Yahoo News: “You’re a Catholic — and we’ll get on to discussing how that influences your life and work in a minute — but, for now, what did it mean to be a Catholic growing up in Scotland in the 1960s and ’70s? And what does it mean, do you think, to grow up Catholic in Scotland now?”

MacMillan responded: “But nowadays it’s not so much the Catholic–Protestant relations that are problematical. It’s something that Catholics in every country in the modern world would recognize as a problem. It’s become very countercultural to be a Catholic, because you just seem to be against the grain all the time. And that grain is an internationally recognized political correctness. So defending Catholic values when it comes to, say, the sanctity of life or the particular nature of Catholic love, for example, or sacramental marriage, and so on. It’s becoming more and more difficult for all Catholics because we’re besieged by a misconception of what our religion is, an ignorance of theology, perhaps. And so that tension is there for all of us, whatever Western country we’re in.”

Martin Ford of the Archdiocese of San Francisco told CalCatholic, “We consider it a great honor for Sir James Macmillan to virtually visit our archdiocese to share with us his perspective on how music can be a door to God. I hope that Sir James Macmillan will inspire us to encourage musicians, especially composers, in their important vocation in the work of bringing more souls to know the person of Jesus Christ.”

The Vatican premier of MacMillan’s Stabat Mater may be seen here , Pope Benedict XVI’s London Mass may be seen here, and the Seven Last Words here.

To register for the ZOOM event with Archbishop Cordileone and Sir James MacMillan, go here.

The above was written by Gibbons Cooney.