Bob Chilcott’s St.John Passion

April 14, 2019 4:00 pm

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church

16 Bradley Avenue, Brattleboro, VT

On Sunday, April 14, at 4 p.m., at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (16 Bradley Ave, Brattleboro), Winged Productions musical director Susan Dedell will direct Bob Chilcott’s St. John Passion, leading a group of experienced singers and soloists, with guest violinist Kathy Andrew and cellist Judith Serkin. Chilcott’s mighty setting of words from St John’s Gospel is a dramatic yet optimistic re-telling of the Passiontide story. The hour-long work combines thirteenth- and seventeenth-century English poetry alongside the sung narration of the Passion story according to John.

As with Bach’s great Passion settings, the role of the Evangelist is taken by the tenor soloist, here sung by Peter Shea. “Because the Evangelist role essentially tells the entire story, the singer who does this must have not only a beautiful voice, but an intelligent, clear storytelling ability. Peter is brilliant in this capacity — I have always loved how he brings words to life,” remarks Dedell.

The role of Jesus will be sung by bass Charles Mays, Jr. “I am so grateful that Charles is coming in to do this role,” says Dedell. “Not only do I adore him personally, but I know his grasp of this part is going to be profound. It also connects a few dots for both of us, since I first met him when he sang the role of Jesus in a New England Bach Festival St. Matthew performance several years back.”

The complex role of Pilate will be sung by tenor Christopher Wesolowski.  Dedell: “I know that Christopher will bring the emotional insight that is needed for this role. Pilate is a strange character in many ways, and I”m interested in trying to bring this complexity into musical focus.”

In addition to these named roles, a soprano soloist sings two beautiful reflections. “Margery McCrum just glows on these pieces, observes Dedell. It is as if they were written just for her — both tender, yet soaring.”

The chorus of 30 completes the work singing choruses that act as emotional response, as well as five simple original hymns, functioning exactly in the same way as the chorales in the Bach Passions.

“I’ve had a musical crush on Bob Chilcott ever since I did performances of his Salisbury Vespers with the Brattleboro Concert Choir a few years back. The St. John Passion, released in 2013, further confirms Chilcott’s status as one of the world’s most popular active choral composers. “I want to connect with people,” observes Chilcott. “This is the world of music-making I’ve always wanted to inhabit. It is the greatest thing to be able to engage an audience in music and words, to give them a space for reflection. Many of us, myself included, struggle with thoughts about faith and belief, which is why I think a lot about the role music might play in one’s personal journey.” “For me, “says director Susan Dedell, “that kind of communication is what it is all about.”

The performance is free, but donations to benefit Groundworks Collaborative will be gratefully received. For more information, call (802) 254-6048

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