Stainer’s “Crucifixion” by the Athens Singers
The Athens Singers will perform John Stainer’s 1887 “Crucifixion” oratorio at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Philellinon 27 & Amalias Avenue (metro: Syntagma) on the 18th March at 8:30pm. Donation at the door: €10.
Over 40 members of the Greek capital’s international community form the Athens Singers, a choir that started off in 1967 as a small group that enjoyed singing for pleasure and which, today, is known for its public performances. Under the musical direction of Roger Tilley, and accompanied on the organ by Stephen Atherton, they will perform Stainer’s “Crucifixion”, a beautiful and moving oratorio whose full title is completed by the sentence: “A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer”. The male solo parts are sung by Manolis Lorentzos (tenor) and Vangelis Maniatis (bass).
Modelled on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Passions”, Stainer’s work is intentionally more modest, as his aim was to offer a Passiontide meditation on a scale and in a musical language that ordinary parish choirs could perform – and to which congregations could immediately relate. Scored for tenor and bass soloists, organ and mixed choir, the oratorio combines choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias, and includes five hymns for congregational participation. Some of the music is arguably sentimental, but its simple melodiousness and the powerful message of Christ’s Passion never leaves the listener indifferent, especially the ethereally beautiful meditation of the work’s centrepiece “God so loved the world” and the highly effective setting for men’s voices of the seven last words from the cross. The libretto was compiled by the Rev. W.J. Sparrow-Simpson (succentor at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Stainer was organist) drawing on the Gospel accounts for the story’s narrative elements and writing the texts of the choruses, arias and hymns himself.
- And They Came to a Place Named Gethsemane (tenor recitative)
- The Agony (tenor and bass solo and chorus)
- Processional to Calvary (organ solo) and “Fling Wide the Gates” (chorus and tenor solo)
- And When They Were Come (bass recitative)
- The Mystery of the Divine Humiliation (hymn)
- He Made Himself of No Reputation (bass recitative)
- The Majesty of the Divine Humiliation tenor solo
- And As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent (bass recitative)
- God So Loved the World (chorus or quartet a cappella)
- Litany of the Passion (hymn)
- Jesus Said, ‘Father, Forgive Them’ (tenor and male chorus recitative)
- So Thou Liftest Thy Divine Petition (tenor and bass solo duet)
- The Mystery of the Intercession (hymn)
- And One of the Malefactors (bass solo and male chorus)
- The Adoration of the Crucified (hymn)
- When Jesus Therefore Saw His Mother (tenor solo and male chorus)
- Is It Nothing to You? (bass solo)
- The Appeal of the Crucified (chorus)
- After This, Jesus Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished (tenor and male chorus recitative)
- For the Love of Jesus (hymn)
PS: If you are interested in learning more about John Stainer’s oratorio, an established favourite during Passiontide, do read Louise Joy Lawrence’s “A Composer at the Cross: Interpreting John Stainer’s “Crucifixion”“.
Dominico El Greco, Crucifixion (detail), c. 1570, oil on canvas. Fayez Sarofim Collection, Houston