Alma redemptoris mater

This is a live recording of Alma redemptoris mater by Cecilia McDowall. It was performed at St Pancras Parish Church on Saturday 16 May 2015 by The Marian Consort directed by Rory McCleery.

Cecilia McDowall (born 1951) has been described by the International Record Review as having ‘a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music’. Often inspired by extra-musical influences, her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism ‘which is, at times, intensely moving’. She has won many awards and has been short-listed seven times for the British Composer Awards. In 2014 she won the British Composer Award for choral music.

Recent commissions include the Musicians Benevolent Fund St Cecilia anthem for the service of St Cecilia at St Paul’s Cathedral, sung by the joint choirs of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral; liturgical works for Durham and Liverpool Cathedrals; a commission from the BBC for Scunthorpe Cooperative Junior Choir, the winner of the BBC Radio 3 2008 Choir of the Year; the Welsh Chamber Orchestra with Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), David Juritz (violin), Anthony Hose (conductor) at the Beaumaris Festival; the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus in conjunction with the NE Community Choir; a short chamber opera, Airborne, marking the centenary of the First World War; and a commission from the Scott Polar research Institute to celebrate the centenary of Scott’s death in 1912 which was performed in the Birmingham Symphony Hall by The London Sinfonia. Another recent choral work, the Shipping Forecast, commissioned by the Portsmouth Choir, gained national media attention.

Much of McDowall’s music has been recorded. The Deux-Elles label has recorded her works for flute and piano and wind ensemble, performed by Ensemble Lumiere and Richard Shaw (piano), including the specially commissioned Arctic Circle for piano and wind quintet. Dutton Epoch has released four recordings performed by the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir and Orchestra Nova directed by George Vass, and the Joyful Company of Singers directed by Peter Broadbent. Three Antiphons has been recorded by the International Celebrity Trumpet Ensemble, consisting of players from the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic on the Brass Classics label. The renowned American choir, Phoenix Chorale, has recorded Three Latin Motets on the Chandos label, winning a Grammy award in February 2009 and a nomination for Best Classical Album.

Oxford University Press has signed Cecilia McDowall as an ‘Oxford’ composer and she is currently composer-in-residence at Dulwich College, London. In 2013 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Portsmouth.

Sebastian ForbesAs composer and founder-patron of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, I have keenly watched it grow from its beginnings more than a decade ago. The Festival quickly became an established and much valued event in London’s musical calendar, bringing proper attention to the vital place of new music in the church’s repertoire. Indeed, it would now be hard to envisage the month of May without the enjoyment of this exciting enterprise.

Sebastian Forbes, composer