James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater is to be live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel next month in the first event of this kind.
The Scottish composer’s hour-long composition, which meditates on the suffering of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, will be sung by British choir, The Sixteen, accompanied by orchestral ensemble Britten Sinfonia.
The Stabat Mater was premiered in an extraordinary sell-out performance at The Barbican in October 2016 by The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia, when it received a standing ovation.
The performance – on 22 April – will be live-streamed and then available to watch for one month on Classic FM’s website. It will be the first ever concert to be live-streamed from the Vatican.
The Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols who, after attending the Barbican performance organised for the work to be performed at the Sistine Chapel, said the performance would be “an experience never to forget”.
“The Stabat Mater is a remarkable prayer,” he said. “It expresses a burning desire for a share in the sufferings of Mary and Jesus. In this it stands in sharp contrast to our contemporary reaction to suffering, which is to flee whilst tossing blame over our shoulder.
“But this prayer begs for an active share in this suffering. It cries out a willingness, out of love, to stand by those who are suffering, taking their pain into our hearts. It is, radically and remarkably, a mother’s prayer. The composition of James McMillan powerfully explores the intensity and drama of this prayer.”
The 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary takes its title from the first line Stabat Mater Dolorosa, which means "the sorrowful mother was standing". The Stabat Mater has been set to music by several composers, including Vivaldi and Palestrina.
The perfomance at the Sistine Chapel has been organised by the Genesis Foundation, which works in partnership with leading UK arts organisations to support musicians, playwrights and actors in the early stages of their careers.
The Sixteen will become the first professional British choir to sing there in over 20 years.
In November, Cecilia Bartoli became the first woman to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir.
PICTURE: Sistine Chapel, image courtesy of Genesis Foundation.