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The Dryden Ensemble presents Bach’s St. John Passion

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The Dryden Ensemble will spotlight Bach’s St. John Passion with three choir performances in March.

Two of the three performances will take place in Princeton at All Saints’ Church on March 13 and March 14. Both of those performances will start at 7:30 p.m. at the church, which is located at 16 All Saints’ Road.

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The final performance is slated for March 15 at 3 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pa.

According to Dryden officials, general admission tickets are between $40-45 per concert and student tickets are $10 with valid identification.

Officials added that the concert is a rare opportunity to hear the St. John Passion in a rendition Bach might recognize.

The St. John Passion is a choral work—but the choir Bach had in mind was not what most people think of today. Bach performed the Passion with a choir of just eight singers, two singers per part, and those eight singers sang all the solo parts as well, including that of the narrator or Evangelist. This is exactly how the Dryden Ensemble will score their performances of the Passion, according to officials.

When a choir like Bach’s is used, together with a small orchestra of 18th-century instruments like those he wrote for, the effect is direct and personal.

Instead of a mass of sound one hears individual lines emerge from the texture with greater clarity, and the soloists, rather than sitting aloof from the action during the chorales and choruses, are full participants in the heart-rending and cathartic events.

Officials said the Passions will be led by Scott Metcalfe, the acclaimed music director of Blue Heron, an award-winning Renaissance vocal ensemble in Boston.

The choir includes eight Baroque singers, six of whom have sung in past Bach concerts with the Dryden Ensemble: sopranos Teresa Wakim and Margot Rood; mezzo-sopranos Kristen Dubenion-Smith and Kim Leeds; tenors Jason McStoots (Evangelist) and Aaron Sheehan; and baritones William Sharp (Jesus) and Brian Ming Chu.

The orchestra includes current members, past members, and two newcomers.

In addition to these concerts, there will be three related events.

The Princeton Public Library will co-sponsor “Herr Bach and his instruments” on March 5 at 7 p.m. and “The Musical Aims of Bach’s St. John Passion”, a lecture by Michael Marissen, an internationally known Bach scholar on March 8 at 3 p.m.

Michael Marissen and Scott Metcalfe will be joined by theologian Ellen T. Charry in a panel discussion entitled “Troubling Voices in Bach’s Sublime St. John Passion” on March 14 at 3 p.m. at All Saints’ Church.

Officials said all three related events are free and open to the public.

For more information about the concerts, visit www.drydenensemble.org. 

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