Sir James MacMillan CBE

“John Studzinski and his Genesis Foundation are very interested in what we’re doing and they are motivated to stimulate our creativity and imagination.
It’s wonderful to have that support right across the arts in music and in drama and many other things.

John Studzinski has become a great friend, mentor and advisor, even in my work. I’ve had wonderful conversations with him over the years about choral music, sacred music and the way that sacred text can be set to music, and for that reason I regard him as a friend. His input into my work has been considerable and significant, including the suggestions of writing my Stabat mater and my fifth symphony.”

Sir James MacMillan CBE

The Genesis Foundation has a long-standing relationship with Sir James MacMillan which has resulted in numerous commissions for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen as well as standalone commissions from the composer. Highlights include the Sistine Chapel performance of MacMillan’s Stabat mater in 2018, which gained worldwide attention as the first-ever concert to be live streamed from the Sistine Chapel.

“James’s music channels the divine as he has a gift that goes beyond the human. His music is deeply spiritual and haunting and the Genesis Foundation is proud to have commissioned him and worked with him on projects where his integrity has shone.”

John Studzinski CBE
Founder & Chairman, Genesis Foundation

Nothing in vain

Nothing in vain was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for a special concert inspired by the life and writings of Cardinal Newman, who was canonised as Saint John Henry Newman in 2019. Newman: Meditation & Prayer took place on Thursday 10 June at Farm Street Church in London’s Mayfair (The Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception).

The concert was live streamed on Classic FM’s Facebook page and featured the world premieres of two new Genesis Foundation commissions by Sir James MacMillan (Nothing in Vain) and Will Todd (I Shall be an Angel of Peace), for Harry Christophers CBE and The Sixteen. Joining them was Classic FM’s flagship morning show presenter Alexander Armstrong, reading the words of Cardinal Newman and the poet and churchman John Donne.

Stabat mater

The Genesis Foundation commissioned Sir James MacMillan to compose a new Stabat mater for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. The work received its world premiere at the Barbican Centre, London in October 2016, joined by Britten Sinfonia. This 55-minute Stabat mater for choir and string orchestra is undoubtedly one of MacMillan’s most important works to date; it reflects his personal response to what is unquestionably the most powerful poem of the liturgy.

Following the world premiere, an award-winning recording of the piece was released on The Sixteen’s own label, CORO. It received its Vatican premiere on April 2018, and North American premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center in November 2019.

This work marked the culmination of the Genesis Foundation’s three-year series of commissions, performances and recordings dedicated to the Stabat mater. Stabat Mater: Spirit, Strength & Sorrow saw three leading young composers – Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin – write short Stabat maters under the mentorship of Sir James MacMillan and Harry Christophers.

Vatican Premiere

In April 2018, MacMillan’s Stabat mater was premiered at the Vatican. Audiences around the world watched the performance by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen live from the Sistine Chapel. The concert was a rare honour, bestowed on the Genesis Foundation, as few performances are given in the Sistine Chapel and even fewer are given by ensembles not based in the Vatican. The Sixteen became the first professional British choir to sing there in over 20 years.

The concert was attended by 300 guests, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, David Lan, Rufus Norris, Daniel Kramer, Lord Heseltine, Dame Janet Suzman and many leaders of the arts, business and diplomatic community.

Except the Lord build the house

In 2020, the Genesis Foundation commissioned Macmillan to write Except the Lord build the house for Eton College Chapel Choir in memory of its former Provost and Headmaster Sir Eric Anderson.

The piece premiered at Eton College in 2021.

Symphony No.5: Le grand Inconnu

Symphony No.5: ‘Le grand Inconnu’ (The Great Unknown) was a major new choral symphony commissioned by the Genesis Foundation, which contemplates  the mysteries of the Holy Spirit. As an element of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a pillar of Christian Faith and theology, yet has only comparatively rarely been explored in art over the last 2,000 years.

The world premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s Symphony No. 5: Le grand Inconnu was performed by the work’s dedicatees Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, alongside members of Genesis Sixteen, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in August 2019, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, and was recorded on BBC Radio 3. The London premiere took place at the Barbican in October 2019 with Britten Sinfonia.

Listen to The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia’s recording

Sing on, Sweet Thrush – a Genesis Foundation commission to mark the 70th birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales

The Genesis Foundation commissioned Sing on, Sweet Thrush to mark the 70th birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales. The piece was performed by musicians and singers from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at Dumfries House on 24 January 2019 and presented as a gift to His Royal Highness by MacMillan on behalf of The Cumnock Tryst, which MacMillan founded.

Sing on, Sweet Thrush is a setting of On Hearing a Thrush Sing In His Morning Walk by Robert Burns, a poem written as a birthday ode by Burns for his friend Alexander Cunningham.

Dumfries House was saved for the nation by a consortium of charities and heritage bodies in 2007 following an intervention by His Royal Highness and is a venue closely associated with The Cumnock Tryst.

Listen to a recording of the work

O virgo prudentissima

O virgo prudentissima, based on a tiny fragment from the Eton Choirbook by Robert Wylkynson, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for the Eton Choirbook and its Legacy of Sacred Music. The programme featured four new commissions based on the iconic music manuscript, the Eton Choirbook, by MacMillan, Phillip Cooke, Marco Galvani and Joseph Phibbs. The world premiere of this programme was held in Eton College Chapel in May 2018, performed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.

On 2 November 2018, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen released Star of Heaven: The Eton Choirbook Legacy, which featured these Genesis Foundation commissions.

Padre Pio

The Genesis Foundation’s association with Sir James MacMillan dates back to 2008 when he was commissioned by the Foundation, along with Roxanna Panufnik and Will Todd, to compose musical settings to Padre Pio’s Stay with Me Lord. All three works were given world premieres at London’s Westminster Cathedral on 3 June 2008 in concert with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.

The Genesis Foundation then commissioned Padre Pio Prayer, a recording of the works.