A Meditative Stations of the Cross by the Solemn Mass Choir

simonberryFriday, March 20th 2015 we have a special Lenten Friday musical devotion.

Starting at 7:30 pm we have a meditative service of Stations of the Cross which will be followed immediately at8:00 pm by a choral performance of a special Lenten cantata.

The Crucifixion is a ‘Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer’ by the Victorian composer John Stainer.   The text is by J. Sparrow Simpson and is drawn from the Bible and from his original writings.  They describe the Passion of our Lord as a journey from Gethsemane to Calvary and dwell on the thoughts and conversations along the way.

The narrative is in the voices of tenor and bass soloists with the choir acting as the crowd.  The congregation joins the story not only by listening but also by standing to sing some well-known hymns.  Thus Stainer continues the evolution of the sacred Passion composition alongside J.S. Bach in the 18th century who included Lutheran Chorales in his Passion settings, and in the 20th century by Michael Tippett who included Negro Spirituals in his oratorio A Child of Our Time  In this performance we include well-known Passiontide hymns that we hope you sing with full heart, spirit and voice;  Stainer’s original hymns, though fine composition, are largely unknown in 21st century California.

Stainer was born in London in 1840 and died in Verona, 31st March 1901.  He came from a family of amateur musicians; his father was parish Schoolmaster of St. Thomas Southwark and owned a small chamber organ on which John received early instruction.  At the age of eight he became a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and at fourteen he was the organist of SS. Benedict & Peter, Paul’s Wharf.  Two years later Frederick Ousley heard him deputizing at the Organ of St. Paul’s and made him the organist of his recently formed College of St. Michael at Tenbury.

Stainer’s university education at Oxford included four music degrees, and the posts of organist of both Magdalen College and the University.  He founded the Oxford Philharmonic Society and conducted its first concert in 1866.  In 1872 he succeeded Sir John Goss as organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  There he instituted many reforms to the status and repertoire of the choir.  Other work included being principal of the National Training School for Music.  Failing eyesight caused him to resign from St. Paul’s in 1888 (following a knighthood), and in 1889 he returned to Oxford as professor of music.

His output of compositions is almost all of sacred choral pieces, designed to be easily singable by parish choirs.  Like the majority Victorian composers, few of Stainer’s works remain in the repertoire, the exception being hymn tunes and two pieces which have always outshone the rest.  I Saw the Lord is a magnificent anthem for eight voices, and The Crucifixion.

The duration of this performance is 65-70 minutes.

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