News Column

Choirs, orchestra tell story of Crucifixion

June 14, 2014

By Bianca Montes, Victoria Advocate, Texas

June 14--The lights dim, and a stream of strings fill the room with a passionate hymn. Slowly, a choir begins to marry into the music, bringing with it a conversation, a walk.

"It's beautiful," Judy Flores said during the intermission of what's considered to be one of the greatest works ever written. "Beautiful -- I think that may be an understatement."

Flores and her family, all of Victoria, joined a couple hundred people Friday night for a presentation of Johann Sebastian Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. The display is part of a weeklong program of performances during Victoria's 39th annual Bach Festival. This was the first year that Flores and her family attended.

The piece was conducted by Craig Hella Johnson.

Before the concert, Robert Kyr, lecturer in residence at the University of Oregon School of Music, hosted a free lecture about the context of the music and story being told.

"St. Matthew Passion" is one of the longest works ever written -- an impressive three hours -- which tells of Jesus' last days and Crucifixion. The story is presented by the actual characters in the story -- Jesus, Peter and Judas -- retold by an evangelist and then reflected by a double choir.

"The way Bach has created the drama of the singers and made them into both characters and also what I call the first person witness, it's all reflection on the story," Kyr said. "To understand what the different elements of story telling are before you hear the piece is very helpful."

About 30 people attended the lecture at the center.

Carl and Alice Wright, both retired schoolteachers from Jackson County who attend the festival yearly, said the lecture helped them prepare to take in the story better.

Alice Wright said she found the well-known record pulled from Matthew 26 and 27 moving, and the conversation lecture helped her piece together the elements.

"I was ready to listen," she said.

Kaitlyn Ingram, 17, of Victoria, said she wasn't able to attend the music talks before the performance but still enjoyed the show.

"I was interested," she said. "At first it was kind of hard to follow, but then you just kind of pick it up."

The piece, Kyr said, was written so the audience could also take part in the journey.

"It's an amazing form of storytelling where everyone is involved, including the people listening," he said.

"Thrown into the middle of this is incredible drama. If you allow yourself -- quiet yourself -- you will become more involved in it than the biggest blockbuster today."


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Source: Victoria Advocate (TX)

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