I was very young when I first heard about Bach’s St Matthew Passion. My mother had sung it as a teenager in The Hamilton Bach Choir. It was performed in English. She loved this Passion with all her heart and would try to explain to me the meaning of singing in this great work, with double choir, double orchestra, and soloists. She described the story as told by the singers. She spoke particularly of how the choir would become the crowd: the faithful followers or angry mob. I would listen as she talked herself to tears. I’m not sure I understood at that time, but I knew enough to listen. This obviously was special to her.
Skip ahead many years to 1996. I had been singing with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir for four years. My Mum was bursting with pride that I was a part of this distinguished group. That season, it was announced that Tafelmusik would be presenting the St Matthew Passion. My Mum was ecstatic and could barely contain herself. “I can’t wait for you to sing this work, and I can’t wait to come and hear it!”, she told me. I guess I would have the chance to experience what moved her so many years earlier.
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