The first full choral/orchestral rehearsal of the St. John Passion is complete, and just how special a performance this will be is coming into focus. We’ve heard Dashon Burton sing the music of a number of composers in a number of styles, and his vocal color and presence are absolutely ravishing on the bass arias in the St. John. The orchestra sounds in especially fine form, and we’re delighted to welcome some new faces among us, including the gambist and cellist, John Mark Rozendaal, and Henry Valoris, who’s playing viola and viola d’amore (along with his colleague, Paul Miller, who frequently joins us on the d’amore). Finally, we were introduced to the tenor, Thomas Cooley, who’s singing the Evangelist role. When I saw that he’d be joining us in that capacity, I made a quick survey of YouTube, on which he can be found singing beautifully (especially the Nigra Sum from the Monteverdi Vespers), but nothing had prepared me for the strength, presence, sensitivity, and dramatic flair that he brings to this music. He sings with exceptional color and finesse, and, though we’ve been blessed to hear many fine evangelists over the years, here in Bethlehem, I think Thomas brings something special and rare to this extremely demanding role. We’re excited to hear the remaining soloists tomorrow as we gather to run the entire piece. We sang all the chorales and turba choruses, and they’re sounding in quite good. The opening chorus sounds especially thrilling – no matter which recording you listen to, little prepares you for the impact of hearing it live. There is an electricity in the room that is very palpable, and I think the rest of the performance will crackle with immediacy, extraordinary drama, and much devotion.
Steve Siegel has a great preview up on the Morning Call.
Finally, the weather. I did two radio interviews, and my hosts had to read the weather before both conversations, which made me wince a bit. I would trudge through a lot more snow than is forecast to sing/hear the St. John, and the show will definitely go on. If it does, indeed, snow, please plan for some extra time to arrive and take care in the parking lot (and plan to arrive in plenty of time for Greg Funfgeld’s pre-concert lecture, which begins at 3). Online ticketing is now closed, but there will be plenty of tickets at the door, and they’ll go on sale at 2:45. You don’t want to miss this concert!