James MacMillan is also a knight. A prominent, outspoken Catholic. A figure seen in Scotland as politically conservative in that he campaigned to preserve the union with England. But above all an established composer of international celebrity – performed by the world’s greatest orchestras and choirs, who are lined up to do so with a vengeance for this birthday year.
For a serious, high-art composer, he also reaches an unusually wide audience – helped, he thinks, by the way “we live in times when people are fascinated by religion, and the most baffling aspects of Christian belief seem to be the most appealing”.
But when it comes to the thorny subjects of inspiration and guidance, James MacMillan is cautious: