MUSIC FOR PASSIONTIDE
Finzi : Lo! The full final sacrifice
Chilcott : St John Passion
Williamson : A Procession of Palms
Matthew McKinney Evangelist
Peter Edge Christus
Damian O’Keeffe Pilate
Emily Costigan soprano
Graham Eccles organ
Chester Music Society Choir
Elysian Chamber Ensemble
Graham Eccles organ
Graham Jordan Ellis conductor
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After the Second World War Gerald Finzi was commissioned to compose an anthem for St. Matthew's church, Northampton. He turned for his words to Richard Crashaw (1612–49) whose Hymn for the Blessed Sacrament is from St. Thomas Aquinas: Adoro Te and Lauda Sion and contains, in Finzi's estimation, "moments of religious emotion where he reaches an ecstasy hardly surpassed in English poetry". It was first performed at the Three Choirs Festival; the work is customarily performed in its original version, with organ accompaniment.
This version of the St. John Passion by British composer Bob Chilcott consists of several different elements. First are narrative passages from the King James translation of the Bible, with an evangelist describing the action and soloists and the choir taking up the words of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, and the crowd. Second are settings of English poetry that reflect on aspects of the tale. Finally, in a simpler musical and textual vein, are mostly later texts that Chilcott designates hymns. These fill the role of Bach's chorales and could be sung by a congregation in performance.
Malcolm Williamson was born in Sydney in 1931 where his father was an Anglican priest. In 1950 he moved to London where he worked as an organist, a proofreader, and a nightclub pianist. In 1952 he converted to Roman Catholicism. His first major success was with his Piano Concerto No. 1, premiered by Clive Lythgoe at the 1958 Cheltenham Festival. Williamson was a prolific composer at this time, receiving many commissions and often performing his own works, both on organ and piano. In 1975 he was appointed Master of the Queen's Music. He died in 2003