Monteverdi Choir’s St John Passion for Easter

THE sublime Monteverdi Choir, with its founder-conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, will be performing Bach’s St John Passion at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford on Good Friday, 2nd April. The performance will be live-streamed from 2pm, and will be available to view until 2pm on Easter Sunday, 4th April.

The St John Passion is one of the most evocative, stirring, exultant and moving pieces of Bach’s music, and a work of profound spirituality, ideally suited to the reflective mood of Good Friday.

The unique setting of Oxford’s historic Sheldonian Theatre provides the backdrop for a performance that features a line-up of soloists, who represent a new generation of British Bach singers, led by Nick Pritchard as the Evangelist. The two principal actors in the biblical drama are taken by the young, award-winning bass William Thomas (Christus) and a long-standing collaborator of Gardiner, Alex Ashworth (Pilatus). One of the stars of MCO’s acclaimed 2018 Bach cantata cycle, Julia Doyle, sings the soprano arias, and Peter Davoren, first heard as a soloist with Gardiner in the Monteverdi Vespers in 2010, takes the tenor solos. The young countertenor Alexander Chance performs the arias which his father Michael sang on the Choir’s first recording of the St John Passion.

The performance comes one year after lockdowns began in Europe due to Covid-19 and is the first live concert by the Monteverdis in England. Throughout the year, fans of one of the world’s leading choirs have been able to enjoy broadcasts of a cycle of Bach’s liturgical cantatas, introduced by the singers and instrumentalists who took part in the ground-breaking Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in the year 2000.

“Bach really is the universal composer, whose music can touch anybody, regardless of religious background or nationality,” says John Eliot Gardiner. “We are encouraged and hopeful that through this concert we can connect to a much wider audience, to whom we can’t be physically close, but who at a distance can be drawn into the rituals of the unfolding of this magical passion.”

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Pictured: The historic and beautiful Sheldonian Theatre was built from 1664 to 1669 after a design by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. The building is named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the university at the time and the project’s main financial backer. It is used for music concerts, lectures and university ceremonies