ST. JOHN PASSION: Bach’s sacred oratorio St John Passion sets scripture and poetry to music of heart-breaking beauty in a deeply human, intensely dramatic telling of Christ’s betrayal, suffering and death.
St John Passion is without a doubt one of the most important works composed by Bach. It established a new tradition for Good Friday vespers in Leipzig, Germany, and with sublime skill Bach managed to retain a spirit of church worship while creating an almost operatic narrative that movingly depicts Christ’s trial, death and ultimate apotheosis.
St John Passion is absolutely riveting and moves at break neck speed. It is filled with an urgency, musical variety and intensity of affect that is unmatched in the history of sacred music. The biggest joy of the St John Passion is that, for all the ferocity and sorrow of the Good Friday story, it is a truly optimistic work, anticipating the resurrection with music suffused with light and hope.
The text is taken from chapters 18 and 19 of the Lutheran translation of St John’s Gospel. In the well-established tradition of the German Passion, a tenor soloist sings the part of the Evangelist, telling the story, and is backed up by the choir and other soloists playing the various characters of the drama. Soloists reflect in their arias on the spiritual message told by the narrative. This is summed up in chorales, being Lutheran hymns in which the congregation may well have joined.
The Hamilton Civic Choir last performed this great work in 2007 with Opus Orchestra under conductor Peter Walls. This year, the choir is excited to present Bach’s St John Passion in collaboration with Auckland’s St Matthews Chamber Orchestra performing in Hamilton and in Auckland. The choir has a rich history of singing this great work with the Chamber Orchestra since 1990 under distinguished conductors Guyon Wells and Uwe Grodd. St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra performs at St Matthew-in-the-City and is currently Auckland’s longest established chamber orchestra. Beginning as a string group formed to accompany performances of Bach Cantatas, the orchestra has developed into a classical symphony orchestra performing a wide repertoire of music.
For this dramatic reading of one of the greatest works in the classical repertoire, the Hamilton Civic Choir and St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra will be joined by a cast of Bach specialists featuring Lachlan Craig as the Evangelist, Jayne Tankersley singing soprano and Sarah Court singing Contralto, and 2018 Lexus Song Quest Winner Joel Amosa as Christ, including soloists James Bush on Cello and Philip Smith on Organ.
It has been said that the St John Passion has affinities with Baroque opera in its almost theatrical evocation of time and place. We promise this is an event not to be missed!