James MacMillan's O bone Jesu was commissioned by Harry Christophers for The Sixteen. It was first performed in Southwark Cathedral on December 10 2002 to mark the start of a tour of Britain's major cathedrals.
MacMillan is a major figure in Scottish music today, just as Robert Carver was in the 16th Century, and it was Carver's setting of O bone Jesu that inspired this work.
As MacMillan himself says, "For various reasons, I have always felt an empathy with Robert Carver and for a while I secretly harboured a wish to re-visit this glorious text and clothe it in my own 21st century musical language."
An interesting feature of this peice is the sway in which the composer highlights the word "Jesu". It crops up twenty times in all, and each time is is sung with the same two-note falling motif. In each instance it is harmonized differently.