The Chronicle of St Machar — a Cantata.

The Cantata is divided into six movements. In The Prologue, Machar’s life and work are foretold. The music begins with a quiet introduction which rises to a powerful climax as Machar's leitmotif is heard for the first time. The choir sings of a dark and bleak land into which comes a man oi destiny to show them love and hope. They prophesy Machar’s great journey to a find a river in the shape of a bishop’s crozier - ‘a river of life, a river of creation'. In the second section the angels celebrate The Birth of Machar on Easter Day and the Children‘s chorus sings an Easter carol to welcome him into the world. Here the music is written in a folk song style and much use is made of musical canons.

Movement three depicts the story of The First Miracle. A great plague rages through the land and ‘slew the people young and old'. Machar's brother lies dying, as ‘death proclaims its’ dreadful hold'. As Machar prays beside the bed, we hear for the first time the miracle theme on the organ followed by Machar‘s powerful Ieitmotif. A radiant light appears and hosts of angels start singing a jaunty little tune 'little boy lift up your head’. This is first heard in the children's choir before being taken up by the full choir and orchestra culminating in a setting of the Gloria to celebrate the return to life of the dead brother.

The fourth movement deals with The Calling. Machar's life as a young man is recalled by the baritone who sings of his grace, piety, and holy works. Suddenly into his life comes Columba who summons him 'to do that which is decreed through Christ the Archdruid'. (Columba is purported always to have addressed Christ as such.) After a Hebridean folk song sung by the children's choir, accompanied by rippling waves in the orchestra, Machar sails with Columba's band of brothers across the sea as the choir sings Deus Pater Credentium — St Columba’s famous hymn.

Then comes The Sacred Island which takes the form of a recitative and aria for Baritone solo. In the recitative. he sings of Machar’s life on the island where he lived and worked for many years, becoming renowned for his powers of healing and his miracles. In the aria. he extols the beauty and holiness of lona — ‘This sacred island. this precious gift, this beauteous diamond in a windswept sea’.

The final movement is divided into four sections. At the opening the choir sings a triumphant hymn of praise as Machar is proclaimed a bishop. Then Columba tells Machar that the time has come to make The Great Journey to search for the holy river in the shape of his sacred crozier. We hear now the characteristic music which started at the very beginning of the work. It rises to a powerful crescendo as the baritone prepares us for the third section of the finale which takes the form of a Passacaglia. Machar and his faithful brothers begin their odyssey — ‘Across the sea, across the land, they travelled far, this pilgrim band'. At last, after months of weary joumeying, their faith sorely tried, Machar triumphantly spots the river - ‘To the east, a fiver flowing. its precious water ever glowing'. The miracle theme and Machar’s leitmotif are heard for the last time as the children now sing the Hebridean folk song, this time unaccompanied, giving simple thanks for the journey’s end. The finale takes the form of a burst of praise and thanksgiving extolling the power of faith' in God — 'Let the bells ring out, Let the people sing, Let the saints all shout. Glory to our King'.

John McLeod