'St. Mark Passion' Cantata Set for March 9-10 at Augustana

The Augustana Chamber Choir, area musicians and student actors will present the “St. Mark Passion,” a cantata based on the suffering of the Messiah, according to the Gospel of Mark, at 7:30 p.m. on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and Thursday, March 10, in Augustana’s Chapel of Reconciliation.

This performance will mark the premiere of this Cantata, which is a first-of-a-kind project.

The Cantata was created by Dr. Christopher Stanichar, associate professor of music; Dr. Richard Swanson, professor of religion; Dr. James Johnson, professor of music; and Dr. Patrick Hicks, Augustana’s Writer-in-Residence and associate professor of English. The four were recipients of the 2009 Granskou Award, a professional development grant for faculty and administrators.

The event is free and open to the public; tickets are required, however, because limited seating is available. Tickets can be reserved at www.augietickets.com.

A Different Way of Reading the Gospel
The collaborators divided the project into four components: Dr. Swanson translated the biblical passages and arranged the libretto, which includes poetry written by Dr. Hicks; Dr. Stanichar composed the music; and Dr. Johnson is directing the Choir.

According to Dr. Swanson, the group’s translations of the Bible make a specific argument.

“The Cantata presents a very different way of reading the Gospel of Mark,” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is link the suffering of Jesus with other human suffering. We find that link in the texts I translated from Mark, Isaiah, and Lamentations, and we extend the connection through Patrick’s poetry.”

“Human history is a history of suffering – from World Wars to the Holocaust to the ordinary experiences of ordinary people who will gather to hear the Cantata: disease, death, and pointless pain are experiences we all know too much about,” Dr. Swanson said. “In this Cantata, through the music, the texts, and the poetry, we recognize the reality of suffering, but most importantly we listen for the promise of resurrection. By joining suffering with suffering, we join together in the hope of resurrection.”

The Cantata will infuse acting, done by members of the Provoking the Gospel Storytelling Project, with music performed by area musicians and sung by the Augustana Chamber Choir.

“It’s been an honor to manage the onerous task of attempting to find the right musical tones to set to this eloquent text,” said Dr. Stanichar. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity.”

“The actors will tell the story; the Choir will sing the themes and illustrate the larger ideas. It promises to be a first-of-its-kind illustration of the story of the Passion of Christ,” Dr. Swanson said.

IMAGE ABOVE: "Christ the Redeemer," by Andrei Rublev.

Media Inquiries: Contact Jill Wilson, public relations and communications strategist.

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