Schola Cantorum and the Stanford Office for Religious Life have scheduled a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The St. Matthew Passion” 7 p.m. March 22 at Stanford Memorial Church on the Stanford University campus.
Schola Cantorum, the Mountain View-based choral ensemble, has waited nearly 50 years to bring Bach’s masterpiece to a Silicon Valley audience. Schola Cantorum Music Director Gregory Wait, head of vocal studies in Stanford’s Music Department, served as director of the Memorial Church Choir for many years.
According to Wait, “The St. Matthew Passion” tells the story of the days leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.
“‘The Matthew Passion’ is the last one Bach wrote, and for it he pulled out all the stops – double chorus, double orchestra, six soloists, including a Jesus and a Matthew (the evangelist). It even has a boys’ choir singing chorale hymn-tunes in a couple of the movements,” he said.
When Schola Cantorum set out to prepare for the concert, Wait first divided the ensemble’s 100 members into two choruses so that they could perform their many roles – they provide commentary at the open and close of each half, they interject during arias and they sing the utterances of priests, soldiers, disciples and crowds.
To sing the parts of the leading characters, Schola engaged guest soloists, including tenor Brian Thorsett in the role of Matthew and Kenneth Goodson, baritone and Stanford professor of mechanical engineering, as Jesus. Los Altos Hills resident Christine Abraham, hailed for her “radiant” voice by the Los Angeles Times, will sing the soprano lead. The Silicon Valley Boychoir will join the performance under the direction of Julia Simon.
Performers will sing the “The St. Matthew Passion” in German. Wait said the original language is “so tightly and beautifully fit” to the music that much would be lost to hear it translated to English. A printed Listener’s Guide will enable audience to follow the action of the story.
Wait summed up the personal significance of “The St. Matthew Passion”: “It has for me, and for many people I know, an effect that is almost impossible to express. It has everything – it has emotion, it has drama, it has conflict and reconciliation, but most of all it has enormous, powerful beauty.”
Funding for Schola Cantorum’s presentation of “The St. Matthew Passion” comes from The John Ernest Foundation, whose mission is to promote the advancement of community-changing initiatives to achieve a more positive environment. The foundation sponsored the performance to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Admission is free and open to the public. Seating is limited.
To order tickets, call the Stanford Ticket Office at 725-2787.