Highgate Choral Society Spring Concert

11/03/2023 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
All Hallows' Church
Savernake Road Gospel Oak NW3 2JP

HCS’s next concert presents an outstanding choral work from the eighteenth century – Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental and dramatic St John Passion (BWV 245).


In 1723 Bach moved to Leipzig where his duties as newly appointed Kantor included composing the music for the city’s two principal Lutheran churches. Written probably during Lent in 1724, his St John Passion was first performed in the church of St Nicholas on Good Friday 7 April 1724. It was heard four times during Bach’s lifetime, each time with substantial alterations.


The St John Passion sets the dramatic Passion story of Christ’s trial and crucifixion as told in the Gospel of St John. The Biblical text at its core is drawn from the Lutheran translation and is sung by the tenor taking the role of the Evangelist. Bach adapted poetic texts for the arias, and for the chorales selected sixteenth and seventeenth century hymns that would have been well-known to the congregations of his day.


Scored for mixed choir, soloists and orchestra, the rich structure of this ‘oratorio-Passion’ includes: two monumental choruses that open and close the work; the Gospel narrative describing scenes in the Kidron Valley, Caiaphas’ palace, the Garden of Gethsemane, Pilate’s quarters, Golgotha and the burial site; solo arias that contemplate and comment on the unfolding events; and simpler chorales representing the response of ordinary congregations hearing the Passion story.


With its enduring message of compassion, hope and salvation, many consider the St John Passion to be the most intensely expressive of Bach’s great choral works. It will be sung by HCS in the well-regarded English version edited by Neil Jenkins.