Jesu, the very thought of Thee

Cecilia McDowall

About the recording

This is a live recording of Jesu, the very thought of Thee by Cecilia McDowall. It was performed at St Pancras Parish Church on Sunday 10 May 2015 by The Choir of St Pancras Parish Church directed by Christopher Batchelor. 

About the composer

Born in London in 1951, Cecilia McDowall has been described by the International Record Review as having ‘a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music’. Often inspired by extra-musical influences, her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism ‘which is, at times, intensely moving’. She has won many awards and has been short-listed seven times for the British Composer Awards. In 2014 she won the British Composer Award for choral music.

Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide. Her recent commissions include the Musicians Benevolent Fund St Cecilia anthem for the service of St Cecilia at St Paul’s Cathedral, sung by the joint choirs of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral, and liturgical works for Durham and Liverpool Cathedrals; a commission from the BBC (for Scunthorpe Cooperative Junior Choir, the winner of the BBC Radio 3 2008 Choir of the Year): the Welsh Chamber Orchestra, Jeremy Huw Williams, baritone, David Juritz, violin, conductor, Anthony Hose at the Beaumaris Festival; the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus in conjunction with the NE Community Choir for performance in Aberdeen in October, 2011, and from the City of London Sinfonia (a commission from the Scott Polar research Institute to celebrate the centenary of Scott’s death in 1912) which was performed in the Birmingham Symphony Hall in February, 2012. Another recent choral work, The Shipping Forecast (commissioned by the Portsmouth Choir), gained national media attention. Cecilia says, ‘There’s something rather beguiling and mysterious about The Shipping Forecast which sounds most poetic, but at the same time is so crucial for those at sea’. The work reflects the mystery and force of the sea, drawing together the poetry of Seán Street, the psalm, ‘They that go down to the sea in ships’, and the words of The Shipping Forecast itself.

Much of her music is on disc; the Deux-Elles label has recorded her works for flute and piano and wind ensemble, performed by Ensemble Lumiere and pianist, Richard Shaw (Piper’s Dream, 2002) and includes the specially commissioned Arctic Circle for piano and wind quintet. Dutton Epoch have released four CDs performed by the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir, Orchestra Nova, conductor, George Vass, and the Joyful Company of Singers directed by Peter Broadbent. Three Antiphons have been recorded by the International Celebrity Trumpet Ensemble consisting of players from the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic on the Brass Classics label. The renowned American choir Phoenix Chorale have recorded Three Latin Motets on the Chandos label. Commissions for 2014-2015 include Airborne, a short chamber opera marking the centenary of the First World War, and works for the BBC Singers and Westminster Cathedral amongst others.

Oxford University Press has signed Cecilia McDowall as an ‘Oxford’ composer and she is currently composer-in-residence at Dulwich College in London. In 2013 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Portsmouth.