Passio an uplifting and memorable musical experiences

Passio combined the music of fifteenth century England and the twenty-first century.

Passio, a reinterpretation of Ricard Davy’s St Mathew Passion 
Auckland Arts Festival
Auckland Chamber Orchestra
Voices New ZealandChamber Choir
Auckland Arts Festival
Auckland Town Hall

Passio was an uplifting and memorable musical experiences combining the music of 15th century England and the 21st century in a retelling of the biblical story of the last days of Jesus. It was also a reflection on death, whether it be of the hero or merely of the common man. It was memorial to those unnaturally and unlawfully killed by the state.

More than 10 years ago, Jack Body, along with David Farquhar, Ross Harris, Lisa Meridan, Michael Norris and Gillian Whitehead combined to create a version of the 15th century British composer Richard Day’s Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christe – using the St Mathew text.

Each of the composers was given a section of the work and produced material which integrated with the original music. In 2006 the work was performed once in the hall of Massey University in Wellington. For the Auckland Arts Festival, it had another remarkable performance.

The instrumentation was confined to brass and woodwind as well as a range of percussion instruments, which at times replicated the sounds and tones of an organ.

The instruments were spread through the auditorium of the Auckland Town hall with  groups of instruments in different locations while the choir was centrally located. Peter Scholes conducted the Auckland Chamber Orchestra while Karen Grylls directed Voices New Zealand.

The audience had been encouraged to move around the groups of players and the singers so in the darkened interior with the dust motes highlighted by spotlights there was a sense of what it might have been like to have been in an incense-laden cathedral interior with celebrants, clergy, choir and commoners moving slowly though the space.

The soloists, Lachlan Craig as St Mathew, Joel Amosa as Christ and Madeleine Peirard as the holy spirit were a trio of exceptional voices. Craig and Amosa provided an emotional weight to the biblical text with some distinctive well-articulated singing.

Madeleine Pierard, spotlit and singing from the organ, high above the audience gave an impressive display with her angelic voice and ethereal appearance.

The evening highlighted the talent available for such a performance as well as the calibre of the contemporary New Zealand composers and Passio is a work that should be performed more often.