A Holy Week Treat for You - Bach's St. Matthew Passion!

An Awesome Musical Creation


Click here to listen on Soundcloud


Click here for the libretto, and follow along


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St. Matthew Passion


Sunday, March 31, 2019, 3:00 pm

St. John Brebeuf Church

SJB Laudate Children’s Choir, Niles Metropolitan Chorus, Musica Lumina Orchestra

A second performance was offered on Saturday, April 13, 2019 

at St. Luke’s Church, 1500 W. Belmont, Chicago IL 60657


Christopher Reames, Evangelist
Vince Wallace, Jesus
Clara Imon Pedtke, soprano        
Stephanie Schoenhofer, alto
Jonathan Weyant, tenor            
Brandon Sokol, bass
Mason Cooper, bass            
Marek Rachelski, conductor


This Holy Week we offer to you the music performed live last year by our very own Niles Metropolitan Chorus and Musica Lumina Orchestra. Take advantage of the complete libretto in order to better engage and comprehend the spiritual aspects of this presentation as you listen.


From last year’s bulletin:

Bach’s St. Matthew Passion tells of the last two dramatic days of Christ’s life leading to His crucifixion and is performed around the world near the time of Easter, in keeping with its history and story. In preparation for more than three months and with two orchestras and two choruses performing, it was a powerful performance and a highlight of LIVE AT SJB Concert Series calendar.


In the Middle Ages Christian churches began observing Holy Week by retelling the story of Christ’s crucifixion in music. Bible verses were set to chant melodies, with St. Matthew Passion culminating in one of the most ambitious musical compositions of all time. 


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed his St. Matthew Passion for the 1729 Good Friday service at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany. The story of the Passion begins in the turmoil of Jesus’s last days in Jerusalem and ends with his crucifixion and burial. The bleak drama is brought to life by Bach’s musical expression of the Christian tenets of love, grace, and salvation. Perhaps Bach’s most personal work, it often moves from a moment of violent operatic drama to a solo aria, frozen in time, an utterance from deep inside the soul.


Bach divided the music into two parts. Highlights of part one include the Last Supper and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In part two, the music turns darker and softer, signalling the inevitability of the story, as it depicts the trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus. The Passion ends with the darkly textured chorus, "In tears of grief." Bach could leave his parishioners in a sorrowful mood, knowing that they'd be celebrating Christ's resurrection in just a few days. 


The Passion begins with an immense wave of sound -- an opening chorus constructed of an interlocking double choir with a children's chorus soaring over top -- building with intensity and sweeping the listener into the drama. Bach built his Passion from choruses both small and large, with arias for specific characters. The Evangelist, a role for tenor voice, is the principal storyteller and narrator, moving the drama along through a kind of half sung, half spoken recitative. Supporting Bach's massive structure are three grand choruses — at the beginning, middle and end — standing as tall pillars, holding up the surrounding music. 


The St. Matthew Passion was written for a single purpose — to present the Biblical passion story, in music, at Good Friday vesper services. Bach's Passion continues to move audiences more than 280 years after it was first heard. Standing as one of the pillars of Western sacred music, it is at once monumental and intimate, revealing layers of meaning in the text, deeply sorrowful and powerful, and surprises abound.


Click here to listen on Soundcloud


Click here for the libretto, and follow along

Last Published: April 2, 2020 2:58 PM
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