Campion Hall welcomes composer in residence

Fr Chris Willcock SJ
Fr Chris Willcock SJ Credit JCAP

Fr Chris Willcock SJ from the Australian province, is joining the community at Campion Hall in Oxford for Michaelmas term as a 'composer in residence'.  Fr Willcock has over 280 numbered works to his name and his music has been performed internationally, over three continents. 

A recent composition, 'A Gospel Bestiary', taking Andrew Bullen SJ's poem about animals that appear in the gospel, was performed by the Tallis Scholars in both Australia and the UK.

Whilst in Oxford, Chris will be working on two mass settings, two song cycles and a string quartet.  “One of the cycles is for voice and harp and will be based on three poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ,” Chris explains, “The string quartet is based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, inspired by the last two stanzas of a poem by W H Auden called, 'Fridays Child'.”

Fr Willcock, who turned 70 earlier this year, described the start of his musical career, “My musical life was inspired by my grandmother who paid for me to have piano lessons at the age of eight.”  He studied composition at the University of Melbourne and he entered the Society of Jesus in 1969.  “I was encouraged by successive provincials to carry on my composition work, a lot of which has been for liturgical settings, although recently I have been composing more for the concert hall.”

Musical composition has been a highly valued tradition in the Society of Jesus. A recent encyclopedia of Jesuit composers was published in Spanish. Present day liturgists, including our own Andrew Cameron-Mowat SJ,  take part in the Jungmann Society, a Jesuit network named after an Austrian Jesuit Alfred Jungmann,  who was influential in liturgical matters in Vatican II.  Next year’s meeting will take place in Nairobi - an exciting liturgical context for the many continents who will be represented.