Duke Chapel to Host U.S. Premiere of New St. Luke Passion

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The Divinity School commissions a new work by James MacMillan
Friday, February 15, 2013

On Palm Sunday evening 2014, Duke University Chapel will host the U.S. premiere of a new St. Luke Passion by Scottish composer James MacMillan.

James MacMillan (Photo by Pilar Timpane)The commission to write a St. Luke Passion arose out of conversations in the Duke-Cambridge Collaboration, which first met during Holy Week 2010 in Cambridge, England. In a groundbreaking partnership, a group of American and British scholars have been meeting together since 2010 with James MacMillan to discuss the composition of this new work.

Speaking in Cambridge earlier this year, MacMillan said "It's a very unusual way of working—I can't really think of any other composer that has had this way of working. But it hasn't been restrictive at all. It's simply broadened the research for me, and widened the conversation into something very fascinating for me."

The group met most recently during Holy Week 2012 as part of a week-long series of theological and artistic events held in conjunction with the Easter at King's festival of music and services in Cambridge.

The Duke-Cambridge Consultation 2012 (Photo by Pilar Timpane)

In the first of a prospective three-part video documenting the week, available to preview below, Dr. Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology and director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, explains the two-way benefit of the creative dialogue between composer and scholars: "We immersed ourselves in the text of St. Luke's passion, prayerfully, as scholars and as theologians, and MacMillan has been taking us into the text and making us see and hear things that we wouldn't otherwise see and hear."

MacMillan, who is now in the process of writing the new work, describes the collaboration as "providing a kind of backdrop—a thinking pad—for me, before even a note is written."

Duke at Cambridge, Easter at King's 2012 - PART 1 from Pilar Timpane on Vimeo.


During Holy Week 2012, the Duke-Cambridge Collaboration, led by Begbie, met in conjunction with the Easter at King's celebration. This video, the first of a three-part documentary of the week, highlights the consultation meetings that took place between scholars from Duke and Cambridge, and MacMillan to discuss his forthcoming setting of the St. Luke passion.

Photography and videography by Pilar Timpane.