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Spiritual and Sacred Music


Spirituality & religious music in Australia

The music for the 1947 Royal Wedding was directed by William McKie, a Melbourne-born organist whose antiphon ‘We wait for thy loving kindness, O Lord’ is now a choral staple. McKie was typical of his time in having a background in church music, and that extends to later composers such as Malcolm Williamson and Nigel Butterley. Australia has also produced some distinguished composers of liturgical music such as Percy Jones, Roger Heagney, Richard Connolly and Werner Baer.

The decline of ‘organised’ religion since the 1960s sparked an increased interest in broader aspects of spirituality. For Australian composers, as elsewhere, that has meant a certain amount of ‘scented candle’ minimalism. More importantly, there has been some exploration of non-European – specifically Aboriginal and Asian – spiritual traditions and an increasingly sophisticated synthesis of these with Western traditions in the works of Nigel Butterley, Ross Edwards, Anne Boyd and others. There are also composers who work firmly within their inherited traditions. Much ostensibly spiritual music is vocal, but some composers use instruments to contemplate spiritual concerns and ideas.

Representative Works

  Work Notes
Christ the King (1984) by Clare Macleana glowing work for a cappella chorus to text by J.K. Baxter.
Past life melodies (1991) by Sarah Hopkinsexists in a number of arrangements, the most performed being for mixed chorus a cappella.
Caeli enarrant I (1994) by Georges LentzCaeli enarrant is a large-scale project for various ensembles, celebrating and questioning the joy of Psalm 19, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’.
Gospel bestiary (1999) by Christopher Willcocka short, virtuosic choral work for the Tallis Scholars.
Dawn mantras (1999) by Ross Edwardswith its mixture of bells, voices, didjeridu and shakuhachi, this work shows the rich mélange of sources that make up Australian music.
 Hallelu et Hasheim min hashamayim (2007) by Yee, Adamthis solo flute piece takes its title from Psalm 148, which calls on the whole of creation to praise the Lord.

More specific categories of Spiritual and Sacred Music

Broader categories of Spiritual and Sacred Music