We are wrapping up our series on the composer James MacMillan with his beautiful Miserere, performed by the Swedish choir Sofia Vokalensemble.
Miserere is an eight-part choral work. It is based on the text of Psalm 51, which is oriented around the phrase “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy.” The lyrics explore the progression from guilt and sin to hope and redemption, and MacMillan’s harmonic genius enables him to reflect that progression in the tonal movement of the music. Notice how the piece opens with a sombre free-chanting section in E Minor but ends with a glowing, warm E Major cadence. Along the way, the voices search through a variety of different harmonic contexts and musical atmospheres, reaching a sensational peak that fades into a gentle resolution.
This is choral music at its best.