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Genesis Foundation commissions new Stabat Mater from James MacMillan

World premiere to be given by Harry Christophers, The Sixteen & Britten Sinfonia, Barbican Hall, 16 October 2016


The weekend of 15/16 October will see the Barbican Centre present a series of concerts and talks dedicated to James MacMillan. At the centre of these celebrations will be the world premiere of his full-length Stabat Mater, commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.


This commission marks the culmination of the Genesis Foundation’s three-year series of commissions and workshops dedicated to the Stabat Mater. Stabat Mater: Spirit, Strength & Sorrow saw three leading young composers – Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin – write Stabat Maters and, as part of the process, they were mentored by James MacMillan and Harry Christophers. Their three works were premiered at a free concert at LSO St Luke’s, London, in June 2014 and subsequently recorded by Christophers and The Sixteen for release on their Coro label.


The Genesis Foundation began 15 years ago with the commissioning of Roxanna Panufnik’s Westminster Mass and since then has continuously committed itself to ensuring that new pieces of sacred choral music get commissioned, performed and recorded. Other composers commissioned include James MacMillan, Will Todd, Tarik O’Regan and Roderick Williams.


James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater at 60 minutes for choir and string orchestra will undoubtedly be one of his most important works to date and reflects his personal response to what is unquestionably the most powerful poem of the liturgy. The thirteenth-century text – Stabat Mater Dolorosa (The grieving mother stood…) – is a meditation on the suffering of Mary as she stands at the foot of the Cross and therefore has a universal resonance that is as timely today as it has ever been.


James MacMillan said:

“It has been a great honour to work on this commission for The Sixteen, after many years working closely with them and Harry Christophers on other, smaller pieces. The whole project supported by the Genesis Foundation has been a delight, and I have been able to work with other, younger composers on their own work, incorporating the activities of Genesis Sixteen too. It has, for a while, been my ambition to set this text and to compose a substantial work for Harry and his exceptional choristers.”


Harry Christophers said:

“The musical world has waited a long time for a substantial setting of the Stabat Mater. The last major renditions were the very personal and powerful settings of Karol Szymanowski in 1928 and Francis Poulenc in 1951. Sixty years on, we will, at last, witness a new and equally personal work which I have no doubt will encapsulate the power of the poem. Collectively, we feel very honoured and humbled by James’ work and are very proud of our association with him. The ongoing collaboration The Sixteen and I have with John Studzinski and the Genesis Foundation is one that continues to flourish.”


John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation said:

“The suffering of Mary as she watches her only son die a long and painful death touches us to our emotional core as there can be nothing worse than seeing your own offspring in pain and dying. Unfortunately, as our world seems to get ever darker, mothers are grieving everywhere for their children which makes the poetry of the Stabat Mater and the responses by composers so powerful. I am delighted that the Genesis Foundation has commissioned the greatest living spiritual composer to reflect on the meanings of the Stabat Mater and we know that he will create a work that audiences will treasure and respond to on many different levels. To have our other long-term collaborators Harry Christophers and The Sixteen give the world premiere as the culmination of our three year long series of Stabat Mater commissions and workshops means a great deal to me and the Foundation.”


For further information please contact Simon Millward, Albion Media, ,




The premiere performance of MacMilllan’s Stabat Mater is a co-presentation by the Genesis Foundation and The Sixteen.


About the Genesis Foundation

Established by John Studzinski 15 years ago, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as the Royal Court, The Sixteen, Welsh National Opera and the Young Vic. Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.

In addition it awards scholarships to exceptional student actors at LAMDA and commissions stimulating new works, from choral compositions to light installations.

In 2015 the Genesis Foundation launched its first partnership outside the UK, funding residencies for playwrights at New York’s Signature Theatre.


James MacMillan is the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation. He first attracted attention with the acclaimed BBC Proms premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (1990). His percussion concerto Veni, Veni Emmanuel (1992) has received close to 500 performances worldwide by orchestras including London Symphony Orchestra, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics and Cleveland Orchestra. Other major works include the cantata Seven Last Words from the Cross (1993), Quickening (1998) for soloists, children’s choir, mixed choir and orchestra, the operas Inès de Castro (2001) and The Sacrifice (2005-06), and St John Passion (2007).

He was featured composer at Edinburgh Festival (1993), Southbank Centre (1997), BBC’s Barbican Composer Weekend (2005) and Grafenegg Festival (2012). His interpreters include soloists Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Vadim Repin, conductors Leonard Slatkin, Sir Andrew Davis, Marin Alsop and Donald Runnicles, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. His recordings can be found on BMG/RCA Red Seal, BIS, Chandos, Naxos, Hyperion, Coro, Linn and Challenge Classics.

Recent highlights include premieres of MacMillan’s Woman of the Apocalypse, St Luke Passion, Little Mass and Percussion Concerto No.2. Future plans include a Requiem and a Stabat Mater, alongside works for leading international orchestras.


Harry Christophers and The Sixteen

After 32 years of worldwide performance and recording, The Sixteen is recognised as one of the world’s greatest ensembles. Comprising both choir and period-instrument orchestra, The Sixteen’s total commitment to the music it performs is its greatest distinction. A special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th-century music, is drawn from the passions of conductor and founder Harry Christophers.


The Sixteen are ‘The Voices of Classic FM’ and Associate Artists of The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. The group promotes The Choral Pilgrimage, an annual tour which aims to bring music back to the buildings for which it was written. Over 100 recordings, including many award-winners, reflect The Sixteen’s quality in a range of work. In 2009 The Sixteen were given the accolade of the Classic FM Gramophone ‘Artist of the Year’ award [the only ensemble in the award’s history to ever win this category] as well as winning ‘Baroque Vocal’ for their recording of Handel’s Coronation Anthems. In 2012 Harry Christophers received a CBE for services to music in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

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