Date: 9 April, 2004
Venue
: The Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: June Heywood

 

 

 

 

Featured Performers: CBC Orchestra
Conductor: Jon Washburn

On Good Friday, Conductor Jon Washburn returned to Johann Sebastian Bach's original concept of the St John Passion with a small choir and orchestra. An equal number of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses make up the Vancouver Bach Choir. There are twenty members in all. That evening, there were twenty-two musicians in the CBC Orchestra.

For some reason, the four soloists were placed between the orchestra and the choir instead of front of centre stage. This arrangement coused them to squeeze past one another when it was there turn to sing or to take their seats. The audience was unable to get a full view of the singers.

The four soloists were Linda Perillo (soprano), Daniel Taylor (countertenor/alto), Benjamin Butterfield (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone). Each gave solid performances.

Mr Butterfield is considered a Bach specialist. As the Evangelist, he carried the major role. It was towards the end of the performance that his gentle tenor voice tired and it seemed more difficult for him to hold the higher notes. Singing in the role of Christ, Tyler Duncan appeared confident. There is a spine-tingling moment in the score when Christ knows that God has forsaken Him. The baritone slows and the organ notes become longer. At another time, Mr Duncan sings a cappella indicating Christ's aloneness.

 

 

 

 

Though her part too was small, Linda Perillo's soprano voice projected well and she also sang with confidence. Taking the alto part, countertenor Daniel Taylor demonstrated "a voice of purity, clarity, and surprising power". David Gordon Duke of the Vancouver Sun wrote, "His dramatic voice quality adding edge and an almost wild insanity to his brief numbers."
Mr Taylor's voice was the most dramatic feature. Overall, passion was lacking from the evening's performance.

On occasion, the choir's voices blended in rich harmony during the Chorales especially on the final notes. However, there was a lack of discipline as the choir members walked on and off the stage and when they rose to sing. Members of the orchestra also looked as though they were enjoying themselves, therefore, their performance was not as crisp as on other occasions.

The story of Christ's crucifixion is a familiar one. In his St John Passion, Herr Bach gave the congregations of his time and the audiences of today the opportunity to vicariously become members of the crowd on that first Good Friday. Simultaneously, we are in the action shouting, "Crucify him!" and in reflective mood with Jesus praying in the garden. Throughout St John Passion, Bach's music speaks to us all most eloquently.

2004, June Heywood

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