In last week’s The Messenger, I began a three week series of articles about the oratorio the Adult Choir will present on Good Friday: “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Théodore Dubois. While last week’s article focused on the composer himself, this week, I thought I’d say a few words about the passion oratorio genre itself.
While the choir has presented requiems and Christmas cantatas in the recent past, it’s been quite a while since a full passion cantata or oratorio has been presented. Musical interpretations of the passion narrative have had an important place in western music for centuries – from the simple chants Christians would have heard in the 5th century to modern day folks listening to “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Early church leaders noted that music helped to bring the Gospel to life, which takes on a deeper meaning when you consider that the earliest musical passions date from a time when many people were somewhat or even completely illiterate. Thus, music helped them to understand this important story of their salvation in an innovative way. By the 15th century, these musical passions started to take the form that we would recognize today: usually different soloists sang different roles – such as Jesus (usually a bass), the Evangelist or narrator (usually a tenor) and other characters such as Mary and Pilate while the chorus represented the “turba” (crowd).
I’m excited that we at FUMC will be presenting a time-honored work in this great tradition to the Edmond community! Please take time to invite your friends and family to this powerful Good Friday worship experience.
Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries