Scottish composer James MacMillan finds inspiration in the early Christian church, creating works of great spiritual power that never sermonize or lapse into mystical solipsism. His 1992 percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is rooted in an Advent chant, but MacMillan opens up that theme to spin out a glittering constellation of sounds. Near the end the soloist revives a theme, climbing a ladder at the back of the stage to ring suspended bells while the other musicians play small percussion instruments attached to their music stands. In the right hands the effect is breathtaking, and guest soloist Colin Currie surely has the right hands--he's one of the few percussionists able to make a career of soloing. The concert ends with another notable British work of Christian inspiration, Sir William Walton's sumptuous choral epic Belshazzar's Feast, which begins with Isaiah's prophecy of the fall of Babylon and ends with that event as recounted in Revelations. In keeping with the best of the English choral tradition, there are many moments of full-chorus singing, with the orchestra exuberantly backing the choir. A rare a cappella performance of Corigliano's brief "L'Invitation au Voyage" opens the concert. The Pritzker Pavilion's sound technicians have become more adept lately at capturing softer moments, so the choir should be heard just fine. Christopher Bell, the orchestra's excellent chorus director, conducts. Free. Friday, August 13, 6:30 PM, and Saturday, August 14, 7:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan; 312-742-4763.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Richmond.