By Philippa Hitchen
The Sistine Chapel has played host to the first ever live-streamed concert, allowing audiences around the world to watch a performance of Stabat Mater by Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan.
MacMillan’s haunting setting of the 13th century text, portraying the pain and sorrow of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, received glowing reviews at its world premiere in London eighteen months ago. The work was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation, set up by businessman and philanthropist John Studzinski, to nuture young artistic talent.
Sunday’s ground breaking event in the Sistine Chapel featured British choir ‘The Sixteen’ and chamber orchestra ensemble the ‘Britten Sinfonia’, performing against the backdrop of Michelangelo’s majestic Last Judgement.
Welcoming the audience seated below the famous frescoed ceiling, English Cardinal Vincent Nichols prayed that God would touch the hearts of all listeners so that they might show compassion to those who suffer in today’s world.
Sistine Chapel's excellent acoustics
Conductor Harry Christophers praised the acoustic quality of the Sistine Chapel, which draws some six million pilgrims and visitors each year.
The performance of this profoundly moving piece, conveying the depths of Mary’s despair as she witnesses the Crucifixion, received a lengthy ovation at the conclusion of its four movements.
Huge online audience
Members of the audience described the drama and intensity of MacMillan’s score as “mind blowing”.
Thousands of online listeners, in countries across the globe, tuned in live via Classic FM’s Facebook page, causing temporary problems to the site, but ensuring the success of this unique artistic and musical experience.