Graduate student Conor McDonald performs the role of Jesus in CCM’s production of J.S. Bach’s ‘St. John Passion,’ presented at Christ Church Cathedral on Nov. 3. Photography by Dottie Stover.
CCM’s Chamber Choir and Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra join forces to perform a unique staged production of Johann Sebastian Bach’s visceral rendering of the St. John Passion as the next installment in CCM’s 2013-14 Prestige Concert Series. The monumental work will be presented at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, at Christ Church Cathedral under the direction of Earl Rivers, staged by Omer Ben-Seadia, and in conjunction with the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts.
Bach composed his St. John Passion for the congregations of Leipzig, Germany for Good Friday services in April 1724. The story is narrated by the character of the Evangelist and emphasizes the conflict of Pontius Pilate. “Bach’s interpretation provides us with a dramatic and physiological account,” explains stage director and Artist Diploma directing student Omer Ben-Seadia. “The staging will portray the drama through symbolic elements and light. The text and historical reflection are just as pungent today as ever – and the staging confronts these truths head on.” Ben-Seadia will also direct CCM’s Mainstage Series production of Don Pasquale in April 2014.
“Performances of Bach’s Passions, particularly in light of the attention that Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ received, present an opportunity for Christians and Jews to confront issues of religious intolerance, and the role of the arts and how the arts might, advertently or inadvertently, promote intolerance,” explains conductor and Director of Choral Studies Earl Rivers. “By exploring these issues, we will know the music better and we will know each other better.”
The concert will be performed at the magnificent setting of Christ Church Cathedral, which enjoys a long tradition of great choral music and is hosting the collaboration between CCM’s Chamber Choir and Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra and the Constella Festival for a second year. In 2010, the CCM Chamber Choir and Philharmonia Orchestra presented the 400th Anniversary of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 at the downtown location, and the Cathedral presents a wide variety of performances throughout the year.
CCM alumnus and Joseph and Frances Jones Poetker Visiting Artist Jeffrey Thompson, tenor, will sing the role of the Evangelist. CCM graduate voice majors Conor McDonald and Jeffrey Byrnes, baritones, perform the roles of Jesus and Pilate, respectively. The roles of aria soloists will be sung by CCM graduate voice majors Danielle Adams, soprano; Laurin McAlister, mezzo-soprano; Alec Carlson, tenor; Jonathan Cooper, baritone; and Stefan Egerstrom, bass. Guest Artist Adriana Contino, cellist, plays continuo cello and Michael Unger, Assistant Professor of Harpsichord and Organ, is featured as harpsichordist. Student obbligato soloists include Haoli Lin and Yang Liu, violin; Xue Su and Carol Joe, flute; and Katelyn Kyser and Martha Peck, oboe.