Community Reviews: St John Passion

13 May 2019
  • Community Reviews
by Ashleigh McManus
Community Reviews: St John Passion

ASO Advocate, Marissa Menezes, took the time to recount her experiences at our recent performance of St John Passion. Our Advocates are a group of people aged 18-30, selected to represent the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, empowered to drive and inspire engagement with orchestral music and the arts. 

St John Passion Review

by Marissa Menezes

As a novice to the orchestra scene, my brain is still relatively void of the technical understanding of its music. And as with all things in my life at the moment, I applied the KonMari method to orchestral music as well. Soooo, Did it spark joy? The answer to that question is quite frankly a HELL YASS!

I like to sit close to the stage so I can soak in every aspect of the orchestral spectacle. I relish watching and listening to the theatrics of it all: the passion-ridden expressions on the musicians’ faces, the graceful dancing of the conductor’s hands, the rich texture of the live music being created by an incredible variety of instruments- such a treat!

Recently I attended Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion, ASO’s second Master Series of 2019, and I loved it so much that I attended the hour and a half goose-bump inducing concert again the following evening. At the centre of this masterpiece was Stephen Layton, the double Gramophone award winning conductor, who is an absolute delight to watch. I was seated at an angle where I could see his face which revealed how consumed, almost possessed, he was by the music. Dressed very unassumingly, I had no idea how infectious his energy would be as he walked onto the stage. Holding what looked like the first thing he could find, a red pencil, he commanded his talented troops to musical victory, winning us over from the get-go.

Conductor Stephen Layton

Having been brought up Catholic, St John Passion was reminiscent of Good Friday services I had attended as a child. Though I don’t understand a word of German, I barely needed to look at the translated text as the Adelaide Chamber Singers, through their voices and expressions, did a magnificent job of conveying a depth of emotion that transcended words. They lovingly guided us through Christ’s difficult journey: moving us to tears during Peter’s betrayal, consoling us when Jesus was crucified and helping us see the greater good in His momentary yet monumental suffering.

The celebrated Perth born soprano Sara Macliver’s stunning voice radiated joy and vulnerability. Gwilym Bowen put on an admirable performance, serving as the narrator in his singing of the Evangelist. Not once did his powerful voice quiver and he was able to maintain its richness till the very end.

Soprano Sara Macliver

However, the unsung heroes of the night were our beloved ASO musicians who served as a sturdy canvas on which Layton brilliantly painted, with the voices of the talented choir and soloists, Bach’s moving account of this grave yet heroic tale. 

As Marissa experienced, you don’t need to have the technical understanding or vocabulary to be moved by orchestral music. If you’re open to it the music can stir something that you might not yet have the means to explain, but that doesn’t make the experience any less profound. If you had a particularly special experience at one of our concerts and feel inspired to write us a review, we would love to hear from you, too! Please forward via email to our Marketing Team

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Recording courtesy of ABC Classic

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