TALK: Sir James MacMillan at St Mary's Cathedral

Join Sir James MacMillan, one of the world’s most successful living composers and Scotland’s best known Catholic musician, for a unique talk hosted by Friends of St Mary's Cathedral.

Sir James will explore how chant, as the music of Faith, has influenced the history of music.

Sir James MacMillan: Chant, the music of Faith and its influence on the history of music is a rare opportunity to hear insights from the Cathedral's Patron of Music, and one of the world’s most acclaimed classical music composers.

The event is FREE. Register here:

Music and joy at inaugural St Margaret's Lecture and Choral Mass

The music of Sir James Macmillan filled St Salvator's Chapel in St Andrews on Wednesday after he gave a stirring talk on 'Christianity and Music'in the inaugural St Margaret Lecture and Sung Choral Mass.

Fr Michael John Galbraith, Catholic chaplain to the University, said: "This is a new joint venture between the School of Divinity at the university and Canmore Catholic Chaplaincy.

"They are the fruit of ecumenical outreach and discussions and it was a joy to welcome Sir James MacMillan as the inaugural speaker.

"It was thrilling to hear St Salvator's Chapel Choir sing so beautifully at the choral Mass. As well as helping raise their minds and hearts to God, for many it brought back fond memories of Pope Benedict's visit in 2010, for which the Mass was written.

"A number of our parishioners were able to join in as the Mass parts are easy to learn and our student schola rehearsed them beforehand.

He added: "As well as having what someone told me was the largest academic procession in St Salvator's that they'd ever seen, it was thoroughly ecumenical, with people from many different Christian denominations, and perhaps none."

In his homily, Archbishop Leo Cushley said it was a "fitting gesture" that the new annual lecture bears the name of St Margaret.

He said: "In this sacred place, we are reminded of much of the circumstances around the birth of the University.

"Among the threads of history that arrive here, is the desire of Scots leaders stretching back to people like St Margaret, who wished to see Scotland a better country, politically, ecclesiastically, socially, intellectually.

"Higher education wasn’t merely about utility or prestige: it was a means of furthering the progress of the nation.  At its most noble, it was also a means for pursuing the good and the truth.

"St Margaret was a committed Christian and a social reformer, and she understood all this well. She was one of the greatest women Scotland has ever known, and one of the most significant champions of social, political and ecclesiastical improvement we have ever had, and she is almost the first such leader in Scotland that we can point to.  That the annual lecture we are instituting today bears her name is a fitting gesture."

He finished: "May God bless the University of St Andrews, and may it ever excel in its pursuit of goodness and truth."

Other priests present were Fr Andrew Kingham (the previous Catholic chaplain) and priests who were graduates from the university - Fr Scott Deeley, Fr Kevin Douglas and Fr Liam O'Connor.







Cardinal highlights role of Holy Spirit in those 'creating beauty in our world'

The works of Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan were celebrated at the annual Festival Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday.

In his homily, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, highlighted the gifts of the Holy Spirit on those who “create beauty in our world”.

He said: “We thank God for the gifts he gives, particularly the talent and gifts of musicians and composers, not least those of Sir James MacMillan who with graciousness and skill helps us raise our minds, hearts and voices to the glory of God.”

The Sixteen Choir (Image: Paul McSherry)

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Leo Cushley with music performed by world-renowned choir The Sixteen. Sir MacMillan attended along with friends and family while dignitaries included Frank Ross, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and philanthropist John Studzinski, founder of the Genesis Foundation, a UK-based arts charity.

The Mass took place the day after the world premiere of Sir MacMillan’s Fifth Symphony, performed by The Sixteen and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Usher Hall.

Cardinal Nichols said: “Last night’s symphony struggled with this mystery of the Holy Spirit, exploring the third person of the Holy Trinity in words and images which gave rise and shape to the music of the symphony.

“Those images include the great image of fire, presented to us in today’s passage from the gospel of St Luke. Jesus said: ‘I have come to bring Fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already’. It’s the fire of the Holy Spirit of which he is speaking. A fire that gives energy, new life, that purifies and enlightens.

“We know that fire can also be terrifying - so too is the Holy Spirit. If, more than anything else, we want to cling to our home comforts and avoid every fresh challenge of this journey following Jesus, the fire of the Holy Spirit will not go away, it will disturb us and seek us out until we are ready to turn to him again in our hearts and are cleansed and recreated.

“We thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit, especially in those who create beauty in our world.”

Speaking at the end of Mass, Archbishop Cushley added: “When we hear singing like we have heard today in the context of Holy Mass, it makes it special indeed to raise our minds and hearts to God.”

(From left) Archbishop Leo Cushley with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Frank Ross and Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Sir James MacMillan (second from right)
Archbishop Leo Cushley greets the congregation after Mass.

Sir James celebrated at Cathedral which helped inspire his musical vocation

World famous Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan returns to St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh this Sunday - the place of his musical awakening

He will be at the Festival Mass, this year, held in celebration of his 60th birthday.

It features renowned choir The Sixteen, directed by Sir Harry Christophers, singing Palestrina’s Misssa Papae Marcelli, as well as several choral pieces written by Sir James.

A recent article in The Herald revealed that a visit to the Cathedral as a youngster left a profound impact on him.

Journalist Barry Didcock writes: "His musical awakening came aged five or six at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh when for the first time he heard what he later learned was a Gregorian chant. It was an electrifying experience at an important age. Music and religion have been fused in his imagination ever since."

The Mass will be celebrated by Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, while Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, will preach.

Reading at the Mass will be philanthropist John Studzinski, the founder of the Genesis Foundation, a UK-based charity that nurtures the careers of outstanding young artists, as well as the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Frank Ross.

The cathedral’s organist Simon Leach will play the 1st and 3rd movements of MacMillan's St Andrew's Suite, specially chosen in honour of the relics of the Apostle which are held in the Cathedral.

Also attending will be elected representatives from the city council.

Archbishop Cushley said he was delighted to welcome Sir James to the Cathedral, adding: “This Mass reminds us of the origins of the International Festival as an endeavour to highlight our humanity and what binds us together, following man’s inhumanity to man in the Second World War. It’s an appropriate response of the Catholic community to gather together and worship God, giving thanks for what we have in common and to look to a better future.”

The Mass begins at 12pm this Sunday (18th). Read the full interview with Sir James by Barry Didcock at