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Annunciations: Sacred Music for the Twenty-First Century

Annunciations: Sacred Music for the Twenty-First Century George Corbett (ed.)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78374-726-9 £28.95
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This book is a pioneering venture in a number of ways […] With a splendid combination of ambition, invention and discernment, six composers (from almost a hundred who applied) were chosen to work with ITIA colleagues in pairs producing six new choral settings of ‘annunciations’ in the Hebrew Bible […] These are included in the central section of the book, following on from Part 1, a set of reflective essays on ‘Compositional and Theological Perspectives’ […] Each of the collaborations is noteworthy, with the ‘theologians’ appreciating the insights of the composers, and the latter the resources of the theologians — one acting as catalyst for the other, mutually transforming perception. […] It is now recognized that ‘reception exegesis’, following on from ‘reception history’ has in effect long been part of Christian tradition in e.g. at least the forms of liturgy, preaching, prayers. It would seem to be the case that the contributors to Annunciations have both attended to the kinds of exegesis current in textual and historical analysis, but have also engaged with one another in trust, appreciation, courage, and affirmation, between them exemplifying the attentive empathy which makes it possible to listen and attend with great care to insights from whatever quarter — a manner of interaction with implications for theology well beyond the present project of TheoArtistry.

—Ann Loades, Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal. 

This is an important book embracing interdisciplinarity both in theory and in a practical project - theology done through music. ‘Annunci­ations’ was initiated by the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts at the University of St Andrews, in which theologians were paired with composers to provide choral settings of Old Testament passages. […] Composers seldom have the luxury of such in-depth discussion around text and theologians seldom hear their opinions expressed in sound. The musical score of each piece is also included. […] The opening section on compositional and theological perspectives includes valuable chapters by composers James MacMillan and Paul Mealor and a very useful one on composing music for a non-professional choir by Tom Wilkinson, in this case the choir of St Salvator’s chapel at the University of St Andrews, who have produced an excellent recording of the pieces. […] In an academic world that embraces interdisciplinarity in theory, but in practice does not know how to initiate or manage it, this book provides an important contribution both to discussion and in terms of implementation. 

June Boyce-TillmanModern Believing, March 2020

The first thing to say is that this book is published by the wonderful Open Book Publishers, and available for free as a PDF to view or download from the website [...] an encouragement to visit the website and examine the 17 varied chapters – actually 23, as six are double chapters with the first written by a theologian and the second giving a composer’s response [...] There is much here for church musicians, and indeed anyone who performs sacred music in any context.
Julian Elloway, Church Music Quarterly , March 2020

This fascinating volume draws together contributions from a wide range of theologians and practising musicians to consider the ways that theology and belief can interact with the practice and appreciation of music, to mutually invigorating effect. It is an impressive and exciting achievement and I am sure it will be read eagerly by all those for whom music can illuminate the sacred.

—Dr Jeremy Thurlow, University of Cambridge

In this book we have a highly creative response [to (post-?) secular society], one which is not just a book, but a multimedia work […] It is the fruit of a remarkable, indeed unique collaboration between theologians and composers […] the resultant "alchemy” has produced some rather wonderful music as well as developing theological understanding, and raising sometimes awkward new questions. […] 'Annunciations' makes a decisive shift from the now-common Historically Informed Performance model (i.e. how would Palestrina’s music have sounded in its historical context?) to Theologically Informed Programming and Performance: "to show how an appreciation of the theological engagement or profound spirituality of composers can influence their music’s performance and reception".
— Dominic White, OP, New Blackfriars, (May 2021)

This is an open access title, and links to recordings, indexes, bibliography, footnotes, and notes on the contributors make it a complete resource. Valuable for musicologists, music philosophers, choral conductors and composers, and church musicians and seminarians.

—V. S. Xenakis, formerly, State University of New York College at Cortland, Choice Connect, December 2019 Vol. 57 No. 4. Reprinted with permission from CHOICE http://www.choicereviews.org, copyright by
the American Library Association.

Our contemporary culture is communicating ever-increasingly through the visual, through film, and through music. This makes it ever more urgent for theologians to explore the resources of art for enriching our understanding and experience of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Annunciations: Sacred Music for the Twenty-First Century, edited by George Corbett, answers this need, evaluating the relationship between the sacred and the composition, performance, and appreciation of music.

Through the theme of ‘annunciations’, this volume interrogates how, when, why, through and to whom God communicates in the Old and New Testaments. In doing so, it tackles the intimate relationship between Scriptural reflection and musical practice in the past, its present condition, and what the future might hold.

Annunciations comprises three parts. Part I sets out flexible theological and compositional frameworks for a constructive relationship between the sacred and music. Part II presents the reflections of theologians and composers involved in collaborating on new pieces of sacred choral music, alongside the six new scores and links to the recordings. Part III considers the reality of programming and performing sacred works today.

This volume provides an indispensable resource for scholars and artists working at the interface between theology and the arts, and for those involved in sacred music. However, it will also be of interest to anyone concerned with the ways in which the Divine communicates through word and artistry to humanity.

You may also be interested in the following resources:

Introduction to TheoArtistry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow5sumd_DrI

CD launch: Annunciations: Sacred Music for the 21st Century: https://vimeo.com/275786342

Annunciations: Sacred Music for the Twenty-First Century
George Corbett (ed.) | May 2019
394 | 39 colour illustrations | 16 audio files (MP3) | 7" x 10" (178 x 254 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783747269
ISBN Hardback: 9781783747276
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783747283
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783747290
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783747306
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783747313
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0172
BIC: HRCS (Christian spirituality and religious experience), AVX (Music recording and reproduction), AVA (Theory of music and musicology); BISAC: MUS048010 (MUSIC / Religious / Christian); MUS051000 (MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Choral); MUS007000 (MUSIC / Instruction & Study / Composition); OCLC Number: 1193080156.

You may also be interested in:

Notes on the Contributors

George Corbett

Part I: Compositional and Theological Perspectives
  1. The Most Spiritual of the Arts: Music, Modernity, and the Search for the Sacred
    James MacMillan
  2. The Surrogate Priest: Reflecting on Vocation with Welsh Composer Paul Mealor
    Margaret McKerron with Paul Mealor
  3. Mary as a Model for Creative People: Establishing Theologian-Composer Partnerships with James MacMillan
    George Corbett
  4. When Gods Talk to Men: Reading Mary with the Annunciations of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
    Madhavi Nevader
  5. Old Testament Typology: The Gospel Canticles in the Liturgy and Life of the Church
    William P. Hyland
  6. Composing for a Non-Professional Chapel Choir: Challenges and Opportunities
    Tom Wilkinson
Part II: ‘Annunciations’ in the Hebrew Bible
  1. ‘Where are you?’: The Temptation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3)
    Margaret McKerron
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Anselm McDonnell
  3. ‘Hinneni’
  1. Jacob Wrestling (Genesis 32.22-32)
    Marian Kelsey
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Dominic de Grande
  3. ‘Whilst falling asleep, Savta told me of Jacob’
  1. Setting Fire to Music: Theological and Aesthetic Approaches (Exodus 3)
    Rebekah Dyer
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Kerensa Briggs
  3. ‘Exodus III’
  1. A Dark Dream: God’s Calling of Samuel and the Ministry of Eli (1 Samuel 3)
    Caleb Froehlich
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Seán Doherty
  3. ‘God Calls Samuel’
  1. Elijah’s Silent Annunciation (1 Kings 19.8-15)
    Mary Stevens
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Lisa Robertson
  3. ‘The Silent Word Sounds’
  1. Musical Arguments and Gender Performance (Song of Songs 3.6-11)
    Kimberley Jane Anderson
  2. Composer’s Reflections
    Stuart Beatch
  3. ‘The Annunciation of Solomon’
Part III: Programming and Performing Sacred Music
  1. Sacred Art Music in the Catholic Liturgy: Perspectives from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland
    Michael Ferguson
  2. Commissioning and Performing Sacred Music in the Anglican Church: A Perspective from Wells Cathedral
    Matthew Owens
  3. Music at the Borders of the Sacred: Handel, Elgar and Poulenc
    Michael Downes
  4. Sacred Music in Secular Spaces
    Jonathan Arnold
  5. Music and Theology: Some Reflections on ‘the Listener’s Share’
    Gavin Hopps
George Corbett is Senior Lecturer in Theology and the Arts, University of St Andrews. He teaches and researches in theology and the arts, and in systematic and historical theology, and he is the author of Dante and Epicurus: a Dualistic Vision of Secular and Spiritual Fulfilment (2013), and co-editor, with Heather Webb, of Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’, 3 vols. (2015, 2016, 2017).
Kimberley Jane Anderson is a PhD candidate in the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), University of St Andrews. Her thesis explores the spiritually transformative potential of ‘progressive’ rock as experienced by fans, drawing on responses to a qualitative survey, her own, situated aesthetic analysis, and phenomenological accounts of imaginative experience.

Jonathan Arnold is Dean of Divinity at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a former member of The Sixteen, author of Sacred Music in Secular Society (2014), and co-founder of Frideswide Voices.

Stuart Beatch studied music and composition at the University of Regina, the University of Alberta, and King’s College, London. His music has been performed by ensembles across North America and the UK, including the BBC Singers, the National Youth Choir of Canada, Pro Coro Canada, the Chronos Vocal Ensemble, the Elysian Singers, musica intima, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the Choral Arts Initiative.

Kerensa Briggs is Composer in Residence at Godolphin & Latymer School, and previously studied composition at King’s College, London, where she also held a choral scholarship. She won the ‘National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award’ (2014), and her music has been recorded by Delphian Records for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Scotland.

George Corbett is Senior Lecturer in Theology and the Arts, University of St Andrews. He teaches and researches in theology and the arts, and in systematic and historical theology, and he is the author of Dante and Epicurus: a Dualistic Vision of Secular and Spiritual Fulfilment (2013), and co-editor, with Heather Webb, of Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’, 3 vols. (2015, 2016, 2017).

Dominic de Grande studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Cambridge, where he was awarded the Sir Arthur Bliss Prize for his portfolio of compositions. Specialising in contemporary classical and electronic music,he has composed the scores for award-winning documentaries and films, and has long-term partnerships with leading visual and video artists and choreographers.

Seán Doherty is Assistant Professor of Music at Dublin City University in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music, where he is active as a composer, musicologist, and performer. Originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, he read music at St John’s College, Cambridge, and received his PhD at Trinity College, Dublin.

Michael Downes became the University of St Andrews’ first full-time Director of Music in 2008, following a similar post at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He conducts the St Andrews Chorus, Scotland’s largest choral society, and is the founding artistic director of Byre Opera. His publications include the first full-length study of the music of Jonathan Harvey.

Rebekah Dyer is a theological researcher and creative practitioner based in Scotland.She graduated with a PhD in Theology, Imagination and the Arts from the University of St Andrews in 2018.

Michael Ferguson is Director of Music at St Mary’s Metropolitan RC Cathedral, Edinburgh, and Teaching Fellow in Music, University of St Andrews. His academic research encompasses music and religion, community music-making, and the creative process. As a composer for film, his music has appeared on BBC, Channel 4, and at film festivals worldwide, and his choral music has been performed in the UK, Ireland and the USA.

Caleb Froehlich is a PhD candidate in the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), University of St Andrews. His thesis examines how ostensibly nonreligious art in the United States opened up or introduced young people to religion during the first half of the 1970s.

Gavin Hopps is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Theology, and Director of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), University of St Andrews. His particular interests are in Romantic writing and contemporary popular music, and he is the author of Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart (2009), editor of Byron’s Ghosts: The Spectral, the Spiritual and the Supernatural (2013), and co-author, with David Brown, of The Extravagance of Music (2018).

William P. Hyland is Lecturer in Church History, University of St Andrews. He specializes in Medieval Church history, with a particular focus on monasticism and spirituality, and he is the author of Custody of the Heart: Selected Spiritual Writings of Abbot Martin Veth, O.S.B. (2001), and president of the editorial board of Premonstratenisan Texts and Studies.

Marian Kelsey recently completed a PhD in Hebrew Bible in the School of Divinity, University of St Andrews. Her research investigated the use of inner-biblical allusions and literary context in the book of Jonah.

James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful composers, whose works are performed and broadcast around the world, and he is also internationally active as a conductor. He is Professor of Theology and Music, University of St Andrews, the founder of The Cumnock Tryst, and was awarded a knighthood for his services to music in 2015.

Anselm McDonnell is a PhD candidate in Music Composition at Queen’s University Belfast. He is the winner of the International Kastalsky Choral Writing Competition (2018), and he has worked with ensembles including the CRASH Ensemble, C4 Conductors/Composers Collective, BBC Singers, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the Ulster Orchestra.

Margaret McKerron is a PhD candidate in the School of Divinity, University of St Andrews. Drawing on the work of Scottish theologians Thomas Erskine of Linlathen and Alexander John Scott, her research considers the relevance of personal relationships in theological education and hermeneutics.

Paul Mealor is an internationally acclaimed composer, and Professor of Composition at the University of Aberdeen. The first president of ‘Ty Cerdd’, Wales’s National Centre for music making, and Vice-President of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod and the North Wales International Music Festival, he received the Glanville Jones Award, from the Welsh Music Guild, for his outstanding contribution to music in Wales (2013).

Madhavi Nevader is Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, University of St Andrews. Her main areas of research are the political theology of the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts, as well as Prophecy and Israelite/Judahite religion.

Matthew Owens is recognised as one of the UK’s leading choral conductors, choir trainers, and organists. He is Founder and Artistic Director of Cathedral Commissions, which commissions new works from pre-eminent British composers, and the innovative festival new music wells at Wells Cathedral, where he is Organist and Master of the Choristers. He is a published composer with Oxford University Press and Novello.

Lisa Robertson is a PhD candidate in Music Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her music has been performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Red Note Ensemble, and Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, among others, and at the Sound Festival, West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and on BBC Radio 3.

Mary Stevens was a cloistered, contemplative Carmelite nun for thirty-three years, before gaining an MLitt and PhD in Theology at the University of St Andrews. Her doctoral research considered the theology of consecrated life presented by Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Redemptionis Donum, with particular reference to his theological anthropology, soteriology and sanjuanist spirituality.

Tom Wilkinson is Teaching Fellow in Performance, University of Edinburgh, and engaged in doctoral research on the music of J. S. Bach. From 2009–2018, he was University Organist and Director of Chapel Choirs, University of St Andrews; he will become University Organist and Associate Lecturer in Music from July 2019.