I went to see Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Sunday. That is one long piece of music – about three hours with one intermission. The original parishioners in Leipzig would not have had an intermission – that was when they got the sermon.
The performance was extremely beautiful. It was sung by all professional singers, one voice per part. And there were two very good counter tenors singing, one of whom was the Evangelist. The other only had one alto solo, and it was lovely. For some reason, the other alto, a mediocre woman singer (in my view), had most of the alto solos. What a waste.
The performance was in Trinity St. Paul’s, a local united church, one of our largest. It’s always a nice low-key atmosphere, with the audience in the pews, lots of wood, and light floating in through the stained glass windows.
It is a long time to pay close attention to anything. Especially for us 21st century people, who are used to sound bites and constant fast and colourful entertainment. Such an in-depth examination of the gospel story – every emotion is musically explored and expounded upon. I do feel I know every square inch of that gospel now. It’s like looking at very fine embroidery and admiring each stitch when you’re more used to glancing at glossy photos.
So I came home quite exhausted really and zoned out on the couch for the rest of the evening. I could quite happily have left at the intermission, being full to the brim with music at that point, but of course, didn’t want to miss anything.
It’s good to mark Easter with some effort like this I think. I am not a Christian myself, but I appreciate the season nevertheless.