Michael Finnissy gained a Foundation Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music, where his principal teacher was Bernard Stevens. He also studied in Italy, and on his return formed a Music Department at the London School of Contemporary Dance, teaching there until 1974. He also worked as a freelance opera repetiteur and accompanied a number of dance companies: Nederlands Dans Theater, LCDT, Strider, and Siobhan Davies’ Dance Company. He then started to teach, at Dartington Summer School, at Chelsea College of Art, at the Royal Academy of Music, and then at the universities of Sussex and Southampton (where he is currently Professor and Chair of Composition), and at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven (Belgium).
His current publisher is Verlag Neue Musik Gmbh (Berlin), although he also has works with OUP, Universal, UMP, Ricordi (Deutschland) and Edizioni Suvini Zerboni. His music is available on NMC Recordings, Métier Divine Art CD and numerous other labels.
John the Baptist was commissioned by Saint John’s College Cambridge for Advent 2014. It is a setting of short episodes from one of the older texts of the York Mystery Play Cycle (number 21: Barbours), which is predominantly based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, chapter 3 verses 1 - 17.
It has a very simple musical structure, alternating boisterous, jig-like, 2-part homophony with much slower, reflective, polyphony. The harmonic nuances are intended to recall the folkmusic of the Middle East (the actual location of John’s nervously hesitant baptising of Christ).
For SATB Choir and organ, John the Baptist was first performed during the Advent Carol Service on 29 November 2014 by The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, directed by Andrew Nethsingha.