A WORLDWIDE audience will watch work composed by Sir James MacMillan as it becomes the first ever concert live-streamed from the Vatican.

His choral variation of the Stabat Mater will be performed in the iconic Sistine Chapel on Sunday, April 22.

The concert is a rare honour, as few performances are given in the Sistine Chapel and even fewer are given by ensembles not based in the Vatican.

It will be performed by The Sixteen, a UK-based professional choir who sang in St John’s Church at last year’s Cumnock Tryst.

They will be joined by Britten Sinfonia, as they were at the work’s world premiere in October 2016 at London’s Barbican Centre, in a continuation of the ensemble’s close relationship with the Genesis Foundation and Sir James.

Greeted with a standing ovation at the Barbican, the 55-minute work has since been hailed repeatedly as a masterpiece. A recording, released on The Sixteen’s own label, CORO, was shortlisted for a 2017 Gramophone Award.

Sir James follows such composers as Pergolesi, Rossini, Dvo?ák, Szymanowski and Poulenc in setting the stark and searing 13th-century liturgical text, which meditates on the suffering of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross.

It is therefore especially apt that the Vatican performance will take place just three weeks after Easter, on Sunday 22 April.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, who will appear in conversation with Sir James at the Boswell Book Festival at Dumfries House in May, described the background to the work.

He said: “The Stabat Mater is a remarkable prayer. It expresses a burning desire for a share in the sufferings of Mary and Jesus. In this it stands in sharp contrast to our contemporary reaction to suffering, which is to flee.

“The composition of James McMillan powerfully explores the intensity and drama of this prayer. Its performance in the Sistine Chapel will be an experience never to be forgotten.”