Monday, February 12, 2018

Special Music for Good Friday

As a special service for Good Friday, Larry and the choir are rehearsing The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer. The work is new to us but is a staple of the church choir repertoire. Of course, in Stainer's time church choirs were bigger so we're working to augment our forces for this presentation.

Extra singers are invited to the first hour of rehearsal on Thursday nights to practice, and will perform with us on Good Friday morning. There is still time for more singers to join. If you're looking for a short-term musical commitment, come talk to Larry on Sunday or call the church office, 250 656-2241.

The Crucifixion is scored for tenor and baritone soloists, mixed choir, and organ, although our performance may include a string quartet. Like Bach's great St. Matthew Passion, the Crucifixion, includes choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias.

Stainer never claimed the designation, "oratorio" for his work. Instead, he titled it "a meditation," and intended it to form an integral part of the Anglican service. He even wrote several simple hymns so that the congregation can join in the singing.

The Rev. William Sparrow-Simpson, compiled the libretto for the work, alternating between Biblical narrative and newly composed poetry expressing the Christian's response to the events of Good Friday.

Critical opinion of The Crucifixion is varied. At its first performance it was well-received, then fell out of favour as being "Victorian sentimentality." Nevertheless, the work continues to be performed in the present day, and, 118 years after the composer's death, musical scholars recognize the enduring value of some of the movements, especially the unaccompanied setting of ‘God so loved the world.’ Of the five hymns composed for congregational participation Cross of Jesus must be counted amongst the finest of all hymn-tunes.

While The Crucifixion, is not in the same league as Bach's monumental Passions, or Handel's Messiah, let us remember that Stainer never set out to rival those works. Rather, his intention was to provide a Passiontide cantata that was within the scope of most parish choirs. Perhaps that modest ambition has contributed to the works enduring place in sacred music. Church choirs can sing it, and they do, year after year.

This year you can hear it at 10:00am on Friday, March 30, at SPPC.

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