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City Choir Dunedin Presents Bach's St John Passion

Fourteen years ago, in March 2010, City Choir Dunedin sang J.S. Bach’s St John Passion and is about to sing it again, 300 years after it was first performed. The work has been widely appreciated and performed worldwide over the centuries and has become a significant and enduring piece in the choral and classical music repertoire.

St John Passion is a haunting and dramatic musical depiction of the Easter story based on the gospel of St John and a performance of this nature is as desirable in the modern era as it was when first performed in Germany 300 years ago. It remains one of Bach's most celebrated compositions.

Under the baton of conductor David Burchell, City Choir is accompanied by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and will showcase six wonderful soloists. The story is told by the key role of the Evangelist who narrates the events in Christ’s life.

Tenor Iain Tetley is looking forward to performing the role of the Evangelist. “It is an undertaking that I greatly enjoy, as it is such a large vocal part to learn. The magnitude of the role is a personal goal to attain, as it was when I sang as the Evangelist in Bach’s St Matthew Passion with City Choir Dunedin in 2018. As a performer I relish the responsibility of the storytelling, in a way that grips the audience and links all the rest of the music together.”

David Burchell, a Bach enthusiast, explains: “Bach brings St John’s account of Christ’s trial and crucifixion to life in his vivid musical dramatisation. The music highlights the interaction of Pilate, Christ and the increasingly angry crowd, portrayed in short fiery choruses, and in the latter stages of the work highlights Christ’s stoic contemplation of his agony on the cross. Contemplative choral hymns in Bach’s masterful harmonisations frame episodes in the narrative, and more expansive reflection is provided by some of Bach’s most exquisite and impassioned music for solo voices.”

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Well-known English conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner CBR HonFBA (born 1943) says it all: “If Bach isn’t in heaven, I don’t want to get there at all. Bach is probably the only composer whose work is so excellent, so challenging for the musician and so rich of spiritual power for the audience and for interpreters, that you would love to spend one year alone in his company.”

Our audience will be immersed in an unforgettable musical journey and this performance of profound beauty will linger long after the final note is heard.

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