Last month, Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Kingdom. In honour of this occasion, the Scottish bishop’s conference along with the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales commissioned Britain’s most prominent Catholic composer, James MacMillan to compose some choral works for the papal Masses. For the Mass celebrated in MacMillan’s native Scotland, MacMillan composed a setting of the ordinary of the Mass. For the Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey), he composed a setting of the text of Matthew 16:18 in Latin. The English text reads “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”. The Latin text begins “Tu es Petrus“.
MacMillan’s work draws on a number of influences. He is influenced by a great deal of the music of the last century. Additionally, his music draws on the heritage of Scottish traditional music as well as his own devout Catholic faith.
This piece of music was sung while the Pope and the bishops of the United Kingdom were processing into Westminster Cathedral. Westminster Cathedral, which has simply the best music program of any Catholic cathedral in the world, has long had a history of commissioning worthy new music for the Mass. In addition to works by Benjamin Britten, Westminster Cathedral has commissioned Mass settings from James MacMillan and Roxanna Panufnik, the daughter of the prominent modern Polish-British composer and conductor Sir Andrzej Panufnik.