Sir James Macmillan, Professor of Theology and Music, was honoured that his anthem ‘Who Shall Separate Us?’, commissioned for the Queen’s funeral, was sung at the funeral service on Monday.
MacMillan’s anthem was inspired by St Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically the eighth chapter from which it derives its name. The text reads, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nothing present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Alleluia. Amen.”
It was sung after the Commendation which, in the Anglican tradition, entrusts the soul of the deceased to the care of God. Macmillan’s anthem was the second of two original pieces commissioned for the service. The first, composed by Judith Weir, Master of the King’s Music, used the first seven verses of Psalm 42.
Sir James, who was appointed CBE in 2004 and knighted in 2015, is an internationally acclaimed composer and conductor, whose deep Catholic faith has been the principal inspiration for his own music. Sir James has also increasingly sought to increase public awareness of the role of Christian faith in the history of Classical music as a whole.
Since 2016, he mentored TheoArtistry schemes bringing theologians and artists into collaboration, and this has led to a series of original musical compositions, a CD recording, and an open-access volume Annunciations: Sacred Music for the Twenty-First Century. Sir James also teaches on the new MLitt in Sacred Music in St Andrews, now in its third year.
Even more recently, Sir James has presented a pioneering series of radio programmes for BBC radio 4, ‘Faith in Music‘, which returned for a second series last year. In this series, he explores the religious convictions that were central to so many of history’s greatest composers.
View the order of service for the Queen’s funeral below: