On Friday, 3 June, Cecilia McDowall’s Jubilate Deo will be premiered at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Her Jubilate Deo was commissioned and first performed at St Michael and All Angels Church, Dallas, Texas, director, Jonathan Ryan. The UK premiere will be performed by singers from several local choirs who will be joined by the Orpheus Sinfonia, with soloists (including, from St George’s, Tom Lilburn and Miriam Allan), all under the direction of conductor Oliver Gooch. Petroc Trelawny, radio and television presenter will guide us through the evening.
A New Carol for an Old Christmas Tradition
by Alex Marshall
LONDON — Every Christmas Eve, the British composer Cecilia McDowall follows the same routine. At 3 p.m., as family members arrive at her London home, she goes into the kitchen, turns on the radio and starts making a Christmas pudding — a slow-cooked, booze-soaked British dessert — while listening to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, perform its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
That service of Bible readings and Christmas music is one of Britain’s best known festive traditions, broadcast live on radio stations worldwide, including on around 450 in the United States. A spokesman for the choir estimated that 100 million listeners would tune in. But this year, McDowall won’t be in the kitchen. Instead, she will be sitting in King’s College’s huge Gothic chapel, listening as the choir performs There Is No Rose, a carol she has written especially for the event.
News from King’s website: ‘The new carol for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve 2021 is a setting by Cecilia McDowall of There is no rose.
King’s College’s Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, asked McDowall to write something that would bring ‘a moment of stillness’ in the Christmas Eve service, giving her freedom to choose her own text.
McDowall told Choir & Organ Magazine: ‘For this carol I looked for words that would help me express a feeling of intimacy and quiet joy: a text that could lend itself to a slower tempo; nothing too animated. I have always loved the medieval poem There is no rose, and after looking through many different texts I felt this macaronic gem would be just the one to convey the spirit I was after. Of course, how could one not be aware of such exquisite existing settings, notably those of Britten and Joubert? And yet the intensity and beauty of these words seemed so appropriate for that quieter moment of contemplation within the service.
This year’s new carol continues a tradition begun in 1983 by Sir Stephen Cleobury, with a new carol written for the popular Christmas Eve service every year since, except for 2020. There is no rose is commissioned by King’s College with support from the late Lucian Nethsingha, in whose memory the commission is written.
‘I am delighted that Cecilia McDowall has written a new setting of There is no rose for our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this year, with support from Lucian Nethsingha; Lucian was an undergraduate at King’s prior to a distinguished career at St Michael’s Tenbury and Exeter Cathedral. Lucian died earlier this year, and it is appropriate that we should honour his memory in this way’.
Daniel Hyde, Director of Music
Also on BBC 2 at 6.15 Carols from King’s
There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu:
For in this rose containèd was
Heav’n and earth in little space:
By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three:
The angels sungen, the shepherds too:
Gloria in excelsis Deo:
Leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth:
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast at 3.00pm on BBC Radio 4 and may be found at this link.
Available until 28 January, 2022.
Book now via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/lfccm
On BBC Radio 3, Music Matters, Saturday, 3 April, Tom Service interviews Cecilia McDowall about the new Hyperion release of her sacred choral music sung by The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conductor Stephen Layton.
The programme is at 11.45am and may be found at this link, available until 1 May, 2021.
The Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection recognises her exceptional body of classical works. In presenting the ‘Gift of the Academy’ award to Cecilia McDowall the Academy said that Cecilia is “a highly skilful and captivating composer who communicates through her music with stunning beauty, sensitivity and impact.”
Now in its 18th year, the annual The Ivors Composer Awards 2020 (previously the British Composer Awards) honour the best new works by UK contemporary composers in classical, jazz and sound art. New for 2020, in addition to the eleven category awards, three composers were awarded ‘Gift of the Academy’ awards from The Ivors Academy celebrating their repertoire to date.
‘Cecilia is one of the finest composers of her generation, particularly noted for her choral works. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs and ensembles worldwide. The composer is often inspired by extra-musical influences and her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism’.
On receiving the honour, Cecilia commented –
“It is very humbling to have been singled out to follow in the footsteps of previous recipients when there are so many other deserving composers.”
Listen to the Radio 3 coverage on BBC Sounds. Cecilia’s The Lord is Good can be heard from 01:18:49.
Listen to Cecilia McDowall on Apple Music