Fr Christopher Willcock SJ

Composer of Mass for the Fallen

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Sydney-born priest and composer Christopher Willcock was a student of composition under Peter Sculthorpe before joining the Jesuits in 1969. After studies in Paris he taught at the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne, in the fields of sacraments and worship. He is now Professor Emeritus. He has released six collections of liturgical music with Oregon Catholic Press, and for the concert hall he has been commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Tallis Scholars, the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, among others. In 2014 three liturgical music commissions received their premières: a Missa Brevis, for Merton College, Oxford; and settings of the Mass for two Jesuit universities in the US: Mass of Saint Robert Bellarmine, and Mass in Honor of Pope Francis.

Composer Statement

Commissioned by Allan and Maria Myers for use at the Eucharist on Anzac Day, Mass for the Fallen is a musical setting of several parts of the Mass: Kyrie Eleison, the acclamations during the Eucharistic prayer, and Agnus Dei. It is designed for communities with varying levels of resources, from the simplest where there is a congregation, a cantor, and a keyboard player, to the more generously resourced where there is also a choir. My brief was to compose a setting that could be sung and played by parishes and communities of average ability, and that could be learnt after a couple of hearings or rehearsals. A further consideration was that it be used not just in this year, 2015, the centenary of the Anzac landings, but on future Anzac Days and other days of remembrance as well. The music, therefore, had to have sufficient interest to encourage such repeated use.

In addition to the Mass parts, I have also composed a setting of the well-known verse from Laurence Binyon's poem, For the Fallen, whose title I have used for the whole collection. Binyon's verse begins, "They shall grow not old", and is set either for soprano solo, mixed choir, and keyboard, or, more simply, for unison voices and keyboard.

The opportunity I have been given to provide a musical expression for Anzac Day commemorating an event so significant in Australia history, is one that I hope will be shared by Catholic communities and others in this country. I salute Allan and Maria Myers for their initiative.

Fr Christopher Willcock SJ

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