JS Bach’s St. John Passion was first performed on Good Friday in 1724, Bach’s first year in Leipzig. It is a retelling of Jesus’ last day, from his capture in the garden at the Brook of Kidron, to his trial before Pilate, to his crucifixion and burial. Bach’s powerful music is based on the account in John’s Gospel, Chapters 18 and 19. In addition to the scripture, there are hymns (known in Lutheran practice as chorales) and arias that reflect on the action. Though the text is in German, there will be a running translation projected during the performance.
The first part centers around Jesus’ capture and Peter’s denial of Jesus. The second part focuses on the trial before Pilate and Pilate’s struggle to understand who Jesus is. Once Pilate capitulates to the demands of the Jewish leaders, Jesus is given over to be crucified. Everyone in the story is trapped, in a sense. Jesus is caught between the religious authorities and the civil authorities. He is the only one without a real choice in the outcome, a fact he recognizes and accepts: “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Peter is caught between self-preservation and loyalty to Jesus. He fails because he puts himself first (in contrast to Jesus, who puts all humanity first). Pilate is caught between keeping order and obeying his conscience. He reluctantly chooses the first at the expense of the second. The Jewish authorities attempt to satisfy Caesar so that they can worship as they choose. This comes at the expense of their morality.
The chorus serves a dual function: sometimes they are the crowds of people–the soldiers, the priests, the bystanders; at other times, they are the voice of humanity contemplating this story. In the manner of a Greek chorus, they are the ideal spectator, giving lyrical expression, through the chorales, of the congregation’s emotions.
Witnessing and hearing the St. John Passion is a profound experience. It invites us to contemplate the injustice of Jesus’ treatment at the hands of the authorities, his willingness to accept his destiny, and to understand the extent of the sacrifice made on our behalf.
The performers, members of Euphony, are mostly recent graduates of the ASU School of Music–professional musicians who are part of our community. They include John Kraft (Jesus) and Justin Carpenter (Evangelist), both members of the Dayspring music program. David Schildkret is the conductor. Tickets are $15 and are available here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4517579
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, WildeP’lay (featuring guest artist Beth Lederman) brings a performance packed full of moving music in celebration of our home.
Singer/saxophonist Donna Wilde and pianist/keyboardist Richard Palalay are at the core of WildeP’lay. As well as being accomplished composers, they are veteran performers who have appeared together in many different venues since 2013.
Their music blends elements of Jazz, Pop, Classical, and Rock. The result is a sound that defies easy categorization…yet resonates in a very familiar way.
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