Bach's St John Passion

Published on Friday 10 April 2020

I hope you are enjoying our musical offerings. We are trying to get to grips with technology quickly, and to get better at what we do and offer. It has been steep learning curve but a rewarding challenge. Feel free to get in touch with feedback.

I was supposed to be conducting Bach's St John Passion in Blackheath Halls last Saturday, 4th April, with two choirs, including Eltham Choral Society, whose regular conductor I am. Because of the unfortunate cancellation of the concert, I wanted to give my Eltham singers the chance to sing Bach's music at home. So, rather ambitiously, I recorded myself playing and singing Bach's large-scale work. My recording is intended to be sung along to, so I have provided music and words (in both English and German) to the chorales (hymns). When the work was first performed in Leipzig in April 1724, Bach's congregation would have joined in the singing of these hymns too, so it seems entirely appropriate that during the Lockdown, people like you should sing along from their living rooms!

My recording also includes the parts of Bach's work (recitatives and choruses) which sets St John's account of the Passion. In this sense, as a kind of Good Friday pilgrimage, watching/listening/singing-along to the recording might be a good way of re-experiencing John's incredible account again, as long as you can put up with my singing voice! I sing in German but have provided a translation on the screen. Best to watch on your computer in full-screen mode.

I have made two versions - a very much condensed version of Bach's work, lasting a little over 20 minutes, and the 'full' version, lasting nearly an hour. Here is the condensed version.

More generally, I would like to express extremely grateful thanks to Anna (Assistant Director of Music) who has been an enormous help in preparation of recordings, etc for Holy Week. She has had an influence on much of what you hear / have heard during this week. Thanks also to the many singers, past and present choir members, and keyboard players, who have given of their time and talents.

I hope you are all getting on well. As I said, please do get in touch if you have feedback or suggestions, as far as St Mary's music during Lockdown is concerned.

After Easter I plan to push a project "Sing Hymns from your living room", encouraging us to get more deeply into favourite hymns by finding out more about their origins.

In the meantime, best wishes for a spiritually-nourishing Good Friday, and a very happy and healthy Easter.

Max

Director of Music, St Mary's


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