James MacMillan composed his Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman as a congregational setting for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom in 2010. The work was heralded as the first setting of the new English Missal translation, and MacMillan expressed hope that it would make a longer-term contribution to music-making in the Roman Catholic Anglosphere. However, in Scotland at least, Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman has not made a widespread impact. The purpose of this article is to understand why MacMillan was unable to add his setting to the body of congregational music in Scotland. Drawing upon an analysis of the work, and first-hand interviews with parish music leaders in Scotland, the suitability of the piece as a congregational Mass is examined. While many of those interviewed perceive Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman to be technically difficult for their congregations to sing, some also see the setting as failing to resonate with the wider identity of Scottish Catholic congregations. MacMillan himself has blamed the “culture of liturgy” in the Scottish Catholic Church for what he defines as the “failure” of his recent congregational music. Supported by data from a recent national survey of music-making, the current state of music in the Scottish Catholic Church is examined in order to better understand this liturgical culture.

Author Biography

Michael Ferguson is a Teaching Fellow in Music at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and Director of Music at St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh. His research interests include music in the modern-day Roman Catholic Church, volunteer music-making in sacred and secular contexts, and music leadership.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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