This Sunday in Kilbourn Hall, the incredible story of Jesus’ betrayal, trial and crucifixion will be told through words and music in a rare performance of J. S. Bach’s “St. John Passion.”

The St. John Passion is a monumental work in western music that uses the large ensemble forces of orchestra, chorus and solo singers to recount the Passion story, as recorded in the Gospel of John.

Bach’s musical setting involves the three main characters of the drama ? Jesus, Pilate and the Evangelist himself ? singing the texts of the Passion. These scenes use the chorus as crowds and observers within the drama. In addition, Bach interspersed solo songs, Arie, and chorales within the work. These songs and chorales use the texts of Bach’s contemporary Lutheran clergy to comment upon the action within the drama. This process is somewhat modeled on the choruses of the classical Greek tragedies.

The text of the Passion is the text of the gospel, verbatim. However, it is sung in German ? Bach’s native language. The audience will receive a full German-English translation of this text so that they may fully understand the drama and its progression.

The musicians involved in this drama are all Eastman students and teachers. The Eastman Chorale and the Eastman Chamber Orchestra will perform, conducted by William Weinert.

The Aria soloists are soprano Misty Ann Sturm, alto Alta Boover, tenor Carl Johengen and baritone John Fulton. The role of Jesus will be sung by baritone Dong-Hoon Park, Pontius Pilate by baritone Vincent Wallace and the Evangelist by tenor Kirk Dougherty.

In addition to this drama recounting an incredible story of sacrifice and love, Bach’s music remains incredibly beautiful in a stunning and immediate way. This St. John Passion, and Bach’s more frequently performed St. Matthew Passion, remain profound and enlightening to all generations of music listeners.

Lee can be reached at

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