Sounding the Passion

Encounters in Poetry, Theology, and Music

Duke Divinity School

April 09, 2014 to April 13, 2014


Since 2010, the Duke-Cambridge Consultation—a group of scholars, musicians, and writers from the U.S., UK, and Ireland—have met at the University of Cambridge and at Duke to discover together a musical, theological, and poetical project centering on the account of Christ’s Passion in the Gospel of Luke. The consultation has given birth to several collaborations over the years, but at its center is a commissioned work by Scottish composer James MacMillan: a new St. Luke Passion.
From April 9-11, Duke Divinity School, Duke Chapel, and Duke Music Department will host three days of lectures, panels, and theological discussion, as well as a poetry reading by Micheal O’Siadhail and a student workshop with MacMillan. The event will culminate on April 13, Palm Sunday, with the U.S. premiere of MacMillan’s beautiful and fervent St. Luke Passion in Duke Chapel, conducted by Rodney Wynkoop with the Duke Chapel Choir.
The current consultation includes: MacMillan, Sarah Coakley, Micheal O’Siadhail, David Ford, Alan Torrance, Jeremy Begbie, Richard B. Hays, Ellen F. Davis, Kavin Rowe, and Ray Barfield. Find photos and video of earlier stages of the project.

Main image:
"Night" (from the series "Golgotha")
©Bruce Herman 1991
mixed media on handmade Dutch cotton paper; 60 x 46"
collection of The Stonybrook School
for more information visit 


James MacMillan

James MacMillan CBE is the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation, and internationally active as a conductor. He is the principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie and was the composer/conductor for the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009; he has conducted orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others.

MacMillan’s musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience, and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian, and Eastern European music. His composition first attracted international attention with the acclaimed BBC Proms premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in 1990, and his work since has been nothing less than prolific. His percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (1992) has received over four hundred performances, and his works have been staged worldwide. He was featured composer at the Edinburgh Festival (1993), the Southbank Centre in London (1997) and at the BBC’s Barbican Composer Weekend (2005). Interpreters include soloists Evelyn Glennie, Wayne Marshall, Mstislav Rostropovich (who commissioned a concerto from him), Colin Currie, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and conductors Valery Gergiev, Leonard Slatkin, Colin Davis, Andrew Davis, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. 

Micheal O’Siadhail

Micheal O’Siadhail’s apprenticeship to life and language has left a deep literary and cultural wake, first in Ireland, and then worldwide. He has published 13 books of poetry and was awarded an Irish American Cultural Institute prize for poetry in 1982 and in 1998, the Marten Toonder Prize for Literature. He represented Ireland at the Poetry Society’s European Poetry Festival in London in 1981 and at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1997. O’Siadhail has also been a lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin and a professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Among his many academic works are Learning Irish (Yale University Press 1988) and Modern Irish (Cambridge University Press 1989). He was a member of the Arts Council of the Republic of Ireland (1988-93) and of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations (1989-97), a founder member of Aosdána (Academy of distinguished Irish artists) and a former editor of Poetry Ireland Review. He was the founding chairman of ILE (Ireland Literature Exchange).

In the range of his themes, O’Siadhail exemplifies the breadth of modern Irish poetry. Of his recently published Collected Poems, the former Irish president Mary McAleese said:

“I know from over forty years of drawing breath and oxygen from his poetry what I find there that heals and helps, what amuses and bemuses, what probes and reveals, tells and outs, vindicates and raises the heart; for this is a poet who makes himself brilliantly, lucidly vulnerable at times and subjects our weird old world with its wonders and its monstrosities, to the damning power of a loving heart turned livid betimes by the legacy of hardened hearts, turned liquid by the power of love to renew itself...”

David Ford

David F. Ford has been the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge since 1991, and the director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) since 2002. He is also a co-founder of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, which studies Jewish, Christian, and Muslim academic philosophers, text scholars, and theologians from Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. Within these roles, his research specialties have especially included examinations into the humanities, social sciences, and contemporary Christian thought.

Ford's current research interests in the area of contemporary Christian thought are focused in two directions: first, in the direction of hermeneutics, the interpretation of Scripture and substantive issues in contemporary Christian thought and practice; and second, in the direction of interfaith theology and relations. His other research includes: the shaping of universities in relation to theological and religious study within them; political theology; theology and poetry; and ecumenical theology. His most recent work, The Future of Christian Theology, draws together many of these threads to present visionary outlines for the near future of interfaith relationships, 21st century hermeneutics, discipleship, and Christian community practices.

Sarah Coakley

As Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Sarah Coakley holds the established chair at Cambridge in philosophy of religion. She has previously held positions at the Universities of Lancaster, Oxford, and Harvard, and a visiting professorship at Princeton. She has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Lund and General Theological Seminary, New York. In 2012 she was elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Coakley currently chairs a series of annual symposia funded by the McDonald Agape Foundation on major topics in theological ethics, with the papers published in Studies in Christian Ethics. Previous interdisciplinary research projects have included Evolution and the Theology of Cooperation (with Martin A. Nowak, funded by The John Templeton Foundation) and Pain and its Transformations (with Arthur Kleinman, funded by the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative). Coakley has also instituted an annual day conference in philosophy of religion bringing together graduate students from Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, and London.

Her research interests cover a number of interpenetrating disciplines, including philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science, patristics, feminist theory and the intersections of law and medicine with religion. She has been working on a four-volume systematic theology, the first volume of which is now available and titled God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity.'

Alan Torrance

Alan J. Torrance is professor and chair of systematic theology at the University of St. Andrews School of Divinity in Scotland. Previously he lectured at King's College London from 1993–1999, where he was also director of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology. Torrance teaches and publishes in Christian doctrine and theology in the fields of Christology, theological anthropology, political reconciliation, and philosophical theology. He also has research interests in the fields of trinitarian thought and theological epistemology.

His contribution to theological inquiries of our time is rich and diverse. In July 2007 he was awarded a major grant by the Templeton Foundation to promote a major series of lectures on science and religion. He has also been involved in several international research groups, including the Reconciliation and Politics Research Project (University of Notre Dame), the Faith and Reason Research Project (Princeton), the Mind, Brain and Personhood Research Project (San Diego and London), and a project on Theology and the Built Environment (Grand Rapids, Michigan). His many endowed lectures include the Hensley Henson Lectures in Oxford, the Didsbury Lectures in Manchester, and the inaugural Colin Gunton Memorial Lecture in King's College, London. At present he is working on the publication of his Didsbury Lectures and co-authoring with his son a book on Kierkegaard and Barth for Eerdmans.

Other Duke-Cambridge Consultation Members

Ray Barfield
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy
Duke Medical School, Duke Divinity School

Jeremy Begbie
Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology
Director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts
Duke Divinity School

Ellen F. Davis
Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology
Duke Divinity School 

Richard B. Hays
Dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament 
Duke Divinity School

C. Kavin Rowe
Associate Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School

Other Duke collaborators

Stephen Jaffe
Mary and James H. Semans Professor of Music Composition
Duke Music Department
Director of Composer’s Workshop

Rodney Wynkoop
Professor of the Practice of Music, Director of Duke Chorale and Chamber Choir, and Director of Chapel Music
Duke Music Department, Duke Chapel
St. Luke Passion Concert Conductor

Sunday, April 13
4:00 p.m.
Duke Chapel

Tickets are $35 for preferred seating, $20 for general admission, $18 for Duke faculty & staff, and $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased through the Duke University Box Office.

Purchase tickets »

About the Concert

James MacMillan is one of the most distinguished composers alive, and his works have been programmed by virtually every leading orchestra and choir worldwide. His new St. Luke Passion—a fresh, dramatic and intensely moving setting of Luke’s account of Christ’s suffering and death—will premiere in the U.S. on Palm Sunday, at the beginning of the worldwide Christian celebration of Holy Week. The piece is scored for orchestra, organ, soloists and two choirs—its immense and captivating sounds wonderfully appropriate for the soaring vaults of Duke Chapel. It will be performed by the combined forces of the Duke Chapel Choir, Durham Children's Choir, and Orchestra Pro Cantores, conducted by Rodney Wynkoop.

For more information, please contact Duke Chapel.


Parking for guests will be available in Parking Garage IV, adjacent to the Bryan Center on West Campus. The cost to park is $5. Parking information and directions »

Pre-registration is now closed. Space is limited, and unregistered visitors will be admitted to Duke Divinity School events on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Micheal O’Siadhail Poetry Reading
Wednesday, April 9
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Duke Divinity School, Alumni Memorial Common Room

Celebrated Irish poet Micheal O'Siadhail will offer a reading of his work in this intimate evening performance.

Public Panel with Duke-Cambridge Consultation
Thursday, April 10
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Duke Divinity School, Room 0016 Westbrook

The Duke-Cambridge Consultation will gather to reflect on working with James MacMillan and the St. Luke Passion project. On the panel will be Ray Barfield, Jeremy Begbie, Ellen Davis, David Ford, Richard Hays, James MacMillan, Micheal O'Siadhail, Kavin Rowe, and Alan Torrance.

James MacMillan Lecture with Sarah Coakley
Thursday, April 10
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Duke Divinity School, Goodson Chapel

James MacMillan will give a public lecture on the St. Luke Passion. The lecture will serve to frame and introduce Sunday's concert premiere, as well as provide insight into the composition of the work. The lecture will be introduced by Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts Director Jeremy Begbie and followed by a response from theologian Sarah Coakley.

“The Future of Theology” Panel
Friday, April 11
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Duke Divinity School, Room 0016 Westbrook

David Ford, Sarah Coakley, and Alan Torrance will each speak about their vision for the future of theology.  An audience Q&A session will follow.

Composition Master Class with James MacMillan
Friday, April 11
2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Biddle Music Building, Bone Hall

The Music Department will host a composers' workshop, led by Stephen Jaffe, with James MacMillan, in which MacMillan will hear and respond to the work of graduate students in music composition. The event will include a performance of MacMillan's Kiss on Wood, for cello and piano.

This event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not necessary.

For more information, please contact the Music Department at 919.660.3333 or by email.

Tickets for the St. Luke Passion concert on Sunday, April 13 can be purchased through the Duke University Box Office. Tickets are $35 for preferred seating, $20 for general admission, $18 for Duke faculty & staff, and $5 for students. Purchase tickets »

All events held at Duke Divinity School and the Duke Music Department are free of charge.

Pre-registration is now closed. Space is limited, and unregistered visitors will be admitted to Duke Divinity School events on a first-come, first-served basis.

Contact the Duke Music Department at (919) 660-3333 for information regarding the Composition Master Class with James MacMillan on Friday, April 11.

Parking for guests will be available in Parking Garage IV, adjacent to the Bryan Center on West Campus. The cost to park is $2/hour. Parking information and directions »

Duke University is committed to providing access to programs for persons with disabilities. If you anticipate needing accommodations or have questions about physical access, please contact (919) 613-5323 in advance of the program.

The following books by members of the Cambridge Consultation will be available in The Divinity Bookshop. Books by David Ford and Micheal O’Siadhail will be available for sale during their corresponding events. Each writer’s craft and research interests, in their very diversity, have richly contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the St. Luke Passion over the four years of the project’s development.

Sarah Coakley

  • God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay “On the Trinity”
  • Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy, and Gender
  • Evolution, Games and God: the Principle of Cooperation with Martin A. Nowak

Micheal O’Siadhail

  • Collected Poems

David Ford

  • The Future of Christian Theology

Jeremy Begbie

  • Music, God, and Modernity: Essays in Listening

Contact Duke Divinity School at or (919) 613-5323.

Contact the Duke Music Department at (919) 660-3333 for more information about the Composition Master Class with James MacMillan on Friday, April 11.

Contact the Duke University Box Office for more information about the St. Luke Passion concert on Sunday, April 13.