Clare MacLean, classical music composer

Clare MacLean


Clare MacLean (born in 1958 on the South Island of New Zealand, at Timaru) is a New Zealand composer. She received her formative musical training under Gillian Bibby at the Wellington Polytechnic. She then moved to Australia, where she studied composition in Sydney with Peter Sculthorpe. Singing with the Sydney University Chamber Choir under the direction of Nicholas Routley introduced her to the intricate Renaissance polyphony that effected her early compositions.

In 1985 Maclean composed Christ the King, a setting of New Zealand poet James K. Baxter, which has received numerous performances in both Australia and North America, as well as several recordings. Conceived as several interpolations for a performance of John Taverner's "Westron Wynde" Mass, the composer subsequently tied them together to create a single work that combines elements of plainchant and hymnody with polyphonic passages. The composer's ingenious weaving and re-ordering of two Baxter poems, 'Song to the Father' and 'Song to the Lord God on a Spring Morning,' was an early indication (in 1984) of her acute sensitivity to text, a trait that runs through all her subsequent works. In the same year, Maclean also revised four solo settings of Baxter's verse. Over the next four years she composed two other major commissions for the Sydney Chamber Choir, "Et Misericordia" (1986) and "A West Irish Ballad" (1988). These three works formed the basis for a CD devoted entirely to her music, performed by the Sydney Chamber Choir and released in 1995 on the Tall Poppies label.

During the 1990s Maclean continued to absorb and process a wide range of influences, from the aleatoric effects in "Hope There Is" (1990), to the use of folksong and chant in Leise rieselt der Schnee (1996). Other significant works from this period include "Love Was His Meaning" (1992) and "We Welcome Summer" (1996). Music from this period reveals Maclean's growing use of repetitive, almost hypnotic phrases, as well as the overlaying of different rhythms and even text. Nowhere is this more apparent than the short piece, commissioned for the Sydney Children's Choir, titled "Rain" that comprises a series of onomatopoeic syllables to suggest a rain shower.

Since her early success Maclean has continued to write to commission, but her appeal has extended beyond her 'alma mater,' the Sydney Chamber Choir that had evolved from its original association with the university. She has written for The Maquarrie Singers, the Tasmanian Consort (1990), and The Australian Voices of Brisbane (1995). Her 2002 setting of "Aunque Es De Noche" was written for the Sydney Philharmonia Chorus, while for the vocal quartet SYNTONY, based in Adelaide, in 2003 she wrote "In The Year That King Uzziah Died." More recently, her orchestral work, "Panah," was selected as one of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Readings in 2008, under the direction of conductor Scott Parkman.

In an odd twist of coincidence, Parkman had previously served as Assistant Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (USA), a city that has hosted more Maclean performances and commissions than any other. This is explained by the relationship Clare Maclean has enjoyed with the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, a professional chamber choir for which she has served as Composer-in-Residence[1] since 2005. For this ensemble she composed first "Os Anthos Chortou: As the flowers of grass"–setting Sappho in the original ancient Greek; then in 2007 "Misera ancor do Loco" (a conclusion in Italian to Monteverdi's fragmentary sequence, "Lamento d'Arianna," 2007) and "Vive in Deo!" (a series of ancient Greek and Latin epitaphs) and Psalm 137 (in Hebrew, 2009). The St Louis Chamber Chorus has also recorded several of her works on compact disc. Future commissions for this choir include performances in November 2009 and December 2010.

Composer Title Date Action
Clare MacLean Hope There Is 09/10/2009 Play Add to playlist