Good Friday: iii) The Crucifixion – Stainer
Good Friday is the most bleak and dark day of Holy Week. We mark this in music, words and prayer at St Bride’s in our Three Hours’ Devotion which concludes at 2pm with a performance of Stainer’s The Crucifixion by St Bride’s Choir.
You are warmly invited to join us at 2pm for this free performance which is one of the most popular musical moments in our calendar at St Bride’s. The Three Hours’ Devotion begins at 12noon with a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater followed by an hour of readings, hymns and prayer at 1pm.
Stainer composed The Crucifixion in 1886-87 whilst organist at St Paul’s Cathedral. It is dedicated to William Hodge, his pupil and friend, who was organist at St Marylebone Church where it was premiered on Good Friday, 1887.
Conceived by Stainer as a ‘A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer’ it is written for tenor and bass soloists, accompanied by choir and organ. Its structure is inspired by Bach’s great St John and St Matthew Passions. However, it lacks orchestral accompaniment as Stainer intended it to be performed by the forces available to a musically competent parish. Despite this, the skilful organ writing suggests a greater support for the singers than just one instrument.
Accessibility was key for Stainer and the work’s structure includes five hymns within it which are crucial to its impact. The congregation stand and take part by joining in with these hymns in this poignant retelling of the Passion of Christ.
Though the premiere was a success, the work, and in particular the libretto by the Reverend William Sparrow-Simpson, received harsh criticism and has continued to do so down the years.
However, its popularity with congregations and audiences at services and concerts has endured and it has outlived most other music of the Victorian period. It certainly remains one of the most popular musical moments in our calendar at St Bride’s.
Those who cannot attend church today can listen to this recording from St Bride’s of the 2017 performance of The Crucifixion.
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