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Valley Festival Singers to Perform Bach’s St. John Passion

Valley Festival Singers to Perform Bach’s St. John Passion

by Angelika Dawson


It is hard for any musician to imagine a world without the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. His extraordinary contribution to sacred music is undisputed and yet during his lifetime, his music was not heard much beyond the churches where he worked in Germany. It wasn’t until Felix Mendelssohn presented one of Bach’s Passion settings that Bach’s music began to receive the recognition that it truly deserves.

This Easter season, choral music lovers in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland will have a chance to experience this musical genius. The Valley Festival Singers, together with Trinity Western University’s Masterworks Chorus and Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Joel Tranquilla will present Bach’s St. John Passion at two concerts in Abbotsford and Surrey.

Bach’s St. John Passion is one of the most beloved and important works in the choral-orchestral repertoire. It was likely first performed on Good Friday in 1724, which was the first Holy Week of J.S. Bach’s tenure as Kapellmeister at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, a position which would span 27 years of the composer’s life and prompt an astonishing output of liturgical service music.

“The work is perfect for Holy Week, as it weaves together biblical, poetic and liturgical texts into a single narrative recounting the last days of Jesus’ life,” says Dr. Tranquilla. “Moving far beyond mere description and narration of scriptural events, the St. John Passion evokes wonderment and awe at the power and significance of Christ’s sacrifice.”

The performances are the culmination of months of rehearsing with three choirs, soloists and orchestra. Audiences can expect to see over 100 musicians on stage as they bring the story to life. The oratorio is recounted through solo recitative and aria, alongside passionate ensemble crowd scenes as well as reflective commentaries that are presented in the form of chorales and solo arias. The choirs have been rehearsing separately since January, joining for select rehearsals to bring the work together.

Tranquilla says that audience members can expect it to be a solemn experience as the music “lives in that dark place.” Yet the audience can also expect to be moved by music that is simply “sublime.”

“Whether you come to this music from a Christian context or not, whether you understand German or not, there is no doubt that the music itself is so compelling that it will speak to all who attend these concerts,” he says.

There will be supertitles as well as program notes to aid concert goers in the understanding of the story that is being told.

The St. John Passion by J.S. Bach will be performed on March 24th, 2018 at 7 pm at Trinity Christian Reformed Church (3215 Trethewey St. in Abbotsford) and March 25th at 7 pm at Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church (9165 160 St. Surrey). Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (65 and over), $10 for students and children ten and under are free. Tickets are available through Eventbrite, at House of James in Abbotsford, from choir members and at the door.

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