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Bach’s St. John’s Passion to live stream on Good Friday


Raphael | Public Domain

J-P Mauro - published on 04/09/20

The storied composition will be performed in Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, beside Bach's tomb.

St. John’s Passion, one of the most celebrated works of J. S. Bach, will live stream on Good Friday, on the Bach Archive Facebook page. The traditional Holy Week composition will be performed at 3 p.m. CEST (9 a.m. EDT), the hour of Christ’s death.

Classical music enthusiasts were foiled when the coronavirus quarantine forced organizers to cancel the annual Liepzig Bachfest. Unfortunately, slashed alongside it was a Good Friday performance of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, which would have gathered a crowd of 5,000 in Leipzig’s Market Square. This, however, was a cancellation that Bachfest’s Artistic Director, Prof. Dr. Michael Maul, could not abide.

With some quick thinking, Maul changed venues and scheduled the same performance to take place in St. Thomas Church, beside the composer’s very tomb. The originally scheduled quartet of chamber musicians will be joined by a small group of singers and several of the choirs who were set to play Bachfest will even join them via video link.

Prof. Dr. Maul commented to Gramophone:

“At this year’s Bachfest, nearly 50 Bach choirs from all continents were to make music together in all kinds of ways. By advancing this special production of the St John Passion to Good Friday, we hope to have the global Bach family singing together at least once virtually – at the right time, in the right place. Of this I am certain: it will be a very moving event for all of us.”

Bach’s St. John’s Passion was first performed in 1724 and has since become annual Holy Week listening for millions of Christians world-wide. The two-hour performance follows the narrative of Christ’s Passion as told by the Gospel of John, all set to the vastly influential styling of J.S. Bach. The composition contains some of his most famous pieces, and even those unfamiliar with classical music are sure to recognize and appreciate this epic chorale.

As it is traditional that the spectators sing along to the well-known Passion piece, the Bach Archive and publishers Carus-Verlag are making available a digital program booklet, which will contain the sheet music for viewers to sing along. They expect the booklet to be available on Thursday and they encourage all viewers to record themselves singing and share it on the Bach Archive Facebook page.

Christian MusicClassical MusicCoronavirusEaster
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