James MacMillan
Since it was the day of Preparation...

Bass-baritone soloist, SATB soli or small chorus and
quintet (clarinet, horn, harp, theorbo, cello)
DURATION: 80 minutes
TEXT: The Gospel of John, chapters 19, 20, 21
with Latin liturgical texts from Easter and Pentecost.
A contemporary chamber setting of the Resurrection narrative.

MacMillan was awarded the 2013 British Composer Award in choral music for this work.


World Premiere
August 2012
Brindley Sherratt, bass

Hebrides Ensemble, William Conway, director
Synergy Vocals
Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh
2012 Edinburgh International Festival
U.S. Premiere
May 2014
Jeff Morrissey, Bass Baritone
St. Bartholomew's Chamber Singers and instrumental ensemble
William K. Trafka, conductor
St. Bartholomew's Church
New York





   Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh
  Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

 In an exciting intercontinental collaboration, SDG partnered with the Hebrides Ensemble (Scotland’s premier new-music group), the Edinburgh International Festival, and Kings Place (London’s award-winning destination for the music and the arts) to co-commission a major new work by leading Scotland composer James MacMillan.

Sold out weeks in advance, the world premiere of MacMillan’s Since it was the day of Preparation... took place on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at Greyfriars Kirk as part of the 2012 Edinburgh International Festival.

Since the highly successful premiere of his St. John Passion, MacMillan has long wanted to set the rest of the biblical story to music:

"My setting of the St. John Passion takes the narrative right up to the death of Christ and then stops. But … of course, the story doesn’t stop there in the Gospel. I’ve always wondered what the rest of that passage would be like set to music … The very next sentence (John 19:31) gives rise to the title of this piece, ‘Since it was the day of Preparation…’

“My Passion setting is big, two choirs, quite a big orchestra and soloists, but my Resurrection narrative is much smaller, and much more intimate—a handful of singers and a handful of instrumentals, so that the music goes away in a quite a different and unexpected direction. I didn't like the idea of 'bombast' with the resurrection; it's just too mysterious a thing for that, so it had to be approached in a different way. The resurrection is more of a mystery . . . more of a shock to the whole human system. It requires, therefore, a degree of deeper reflection."—James MacMillan

  Hebrides Ensemble
(Photo: Sussie Ahlburg

Scored for a small chamber ensemble and vocalists, with just five instrumentalists and five singers, Since it was the day of Preparation… was premiered by the Hebrides Ensemble and Synergy Vocals, under the artistic direction of William Conway, with bass Brindley Sherratt portraying Christ. Throughout the piece, MacMillan includes interludes where each of the five instrumentalists (clarinet, French horn, cello, harp, and theorbo) have solo moments of real virtuosity. As MacMillan describes, “Instead of having a chorale, such as Bach would have done in his Passions as reflections points, my reflections are provided by these solo instruments."

The Hebrides Ensemble is "one of the most innovative and thrilling ensembles in Europe" (The Scotsman) and is committed to supporting new composers and commissioning new works. London-based Synergy Vocals is highly respected for its vocal blend, rhythmic precision and dynamic performances.


Review highlights from the world premiere


“Wonderfully rich in its musical tapestry ... It's the best new work that I’ve heard from MacMillan for a while; a worthy successor to his 2007 St. John Passion ... Superb performances all round.”—Richard Morrison, The Times (London)

"James MacMillan has lavished his compositional mastery generously on Since it was the day of Preparation ... The music ranges in mood from austere to warm and tender, from the purity of intensity to the almost relaxed expansiveness of a music that knows percisely its purpose ... The performance was broad, blazing and stunning."—Michael Tumelty, The Herald (Scotland) Click here for the full review.

"Some of the most interesting ensemble writing I have heard ... I found this performance completely engaging."—Alan Coady, bachtrack.com (Click here for the full review.)

"A supreme clarity of texture ... unbridled simplicity which heightens the emotional impact ... an impressive first performance.” —Ken Walton, The Scotsman (Click here for the full review.)

"The final passage for the four singers and the instrumental quintet is haunting in its beauty and directness."—Simon Thompson, "Seen and Heard," MusicWeb International (Click here for the full review.)