Jesuit Father Christopher Willcock, an award-winning Australian composer of music for churches and concert halls, has joined the Boston College community as the Thomas I. Gasson, SJ Professor for 2011-12.
Fr. Willcock is a faculty member in the Jesuit Theological College of the Melbourne College of Divinity in Australia, where he teaches liturgy and sacramental theology.
His “chief love,” though, is music. The first Gasson Professor to be based in the Music Department, Willcock is co-teaching a senior seminar this semester with Adjunct Associate Professor Jeremiah McGrann, and next semester will team teach Music and the Jesuit Tradition with Canisius Professor T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, — who is director of the Jesuit Institute — and Music Chairman Professor Michael Noone.
Born in Sydney, Fr. Willcock entered the Society of Jesus in 1969. Ordained a priest in 1977, he earned a doctorate from Institut Catholique and the Sorbonne in Paris.
“It’s a huge privilege, and a great pleasure, for the Music Department to be able to welcome Fr. Christopher Willcock as Gasson Professor,” said Noone. “While Willcock is one of the biggest names in Australian Catholic music, some of his most astonishing creations have been composed for the secular concert hall. Christopher’s collaborations with both students and faculty will emphasize the crucial role played by creativity and the imagination in college life.”
Fr. Willcock has composed orchestral, chamber, choral and solo vocal works. His music has been performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Tallis Scholars, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.
While in his post as Gasson Professor, Fr. Willcock hopes to work on a new piece of music, “Friday’s Child,” composed for a string quartet. “It will be about the life and message of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by the Nazis,” he said.
One of Fr. Willcock’s favorite pieces, he said, is “Akhmatova Requiem,” set to the words of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova who wrote about the extreme sufferings during the Stalin regime. Fr. Willcock received the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award to compose and perform this work.
Fr. Willcock also has been recognized for his liturgical compositions, receiving the inaugural Percy Jones Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Liturgical Music in 1993. Among the titles in his liturgical music collection are Who Did You See?, God Here Among Us, In the Peace of Christ, and two volumes of psalm settings: Psalms for Feasts and Seasons and Psalms for the Journey.
Fr. Willcock directed the music and an international choir for a Mass held in St. Peter’s Square to mark the Jesuit Jubilee in 2006. He created the song “Spirit-Power” specifically for the 2008 World Youth Day papal Mass held in Australia.
Funded by a gift from the Jesuit Community at Boston College, the Gasson Chair is held by a distinguished Jesuit scholar in any discipline and is the oldest endowed professorship at Boston College.