Nicholas Wilton – England’s Sacred Composer

By Joseph Charles MacKenzie

In a world spiritually and intellectually crippled by modernism, the technical virtues sacred composers once possessed have fallen into disuse. Major components of polyphony, such as equilibrium and contrapuntal harmony, have altogether disappeared, replaced by trite conventions and shallow emotionalism.

And yet, in the darkness of today’s musical crisis, God has called forth a sacred composer of genius, a star in the firmament of England’s proud musical tradition.

Nicholas Wilton

Ars Pulchra is pleased to present London composer Nicholas Wilton, a living master of his country’s illustrious tradition of sacred polyphony. In his strict, absolutely uncompromising fidelity to the Church’s musical mind and heart, Wilton surpasses the best sacred composers of our day. His work, moreover, is currently gaining interest throughout the world.

Faithful to the finest aesthetic criteria ever established in the history of music, Wilton has been called a “modern Palestrina.” His genius, however, is nevertheless unique, a source of surprising originality, intellectual depth, and spiritual elevation all his own.

One of the foundational principles of the Catholic Institute of Arts and Letters is: The basis of originality in art is apprenticeship to the past. Wilton applies this principle with genius, sobriety, and a profound devotion to the things of God. He is, by all accounts, the living successor of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, composers illumined by divine and Catholic faith in every work they produced.

Thomas Tallis

However, Wilton shares more with these masters than their genius; for, they, too, composed at a time when the Church’s institutions were occupied by an anti-Catholic sect. Does the current crisis influence Wilton’s compositional style? In a letter to the composer, Australian linguist, ethnologist, and historian Dr. Geoffrey Hull writes:

There is a haunting Byrdian pathos in the melodies which seems at the same time to have come out of the suffering of modern Catholics at the destruction of the visible Latin Church after Vatican II and the persecution and marginalization of the tiny minority graced with the knowledge that what has been ordered by Rome is of satanic inspiration. You have somehow translated this suffering into your music. I think that posterity will recognize it clearly as a product of Catholic tradition reduced to its direst straits in the last three decades of the 20th century.

Mr. Wilton’s seminal recording, Magnificat: Sacred Choral Music by Nicholas Wilton, is one of the great treasures of English sacred polyphany. Ars Pulchra Magazine is honored to recommend this impeccably engineered CD to our readers — an excellent gift for friends and family on any occasion. In reviewing the recording, Sir James Galway writes:

This is one of my favourite CD’s. Masterfully written, beautifully sung. It brings me closer to God. I have given it as a gift to many of my friends.

Please enjoy Mr. Wilton’s sacred music compositions in the special video presentation below. It includes four motets by the composer, an Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus, Felix Namque and the Kyrie from his Missa Brevis, sung by Magnificat (directed by Philip Cave), Julian Gavin and Cantiones Sacrae, © Copyright 1999-2004 by Nicholas Wilton/Philangelus.


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