Spiritual and Sacred Music
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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.
||Christ the King (1984) by Clare Maclean||a glowing work for a cappella chorus to text by J.K. Baxter.|
|Past life melodies (1991) by Sarah Hopkins||exists in a number of arrangements, the most performed being for mixed chorus a cappella.|
|Caeli enarrant I (1994) by Georges Lentz||Caeli 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 Willcock||a short, virtuosic choral work for the Tallis Scholars.|
||Dawn mantras (1999) by Ross Edwards||with its mixture of bells, voices, didjeridu and shakuhachi, this work shows the rich mélange of sources that make up Australian music.|
|Requiem (2019) by Anne Cawrse||this work for SATB choir and organ intertwines the Latin text of a Requiem with excerpts from 'The Prayer Tree' by Australian poet and cartoonist Michael Leunig, resulting in a reflective but provoking journey through rest, confession, praise and acceptance.|
||Women of the earth (2018) by Caerwen Martin||inspired by the women of the scriptures, and the women who work in the community, 'Women of the Earth' for a mixed quintet was written to celebrate a stained glass window by artist David Wright.|
|Missa brevis (2015) by Andrew Ford||dedicated 'to all who seek asylum', this mass for SATB choir and organ makes multiple references to the American Spiritual 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child'.|
|hallelu et Hashem min hashamayim (2007) by Adam Yee||this solo flute piece takes its title from Psalm 148, which calls on the whole of creation to praise the Lord.|