The interior of St. Dominic’s (photograph by David Yu, from the St.Dominic’s Web site)
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Lower Pacific Heights has its own Schola Cantorum led by its Music Director Simon Berry. This service provides training for performances in four different choirs supported by the church, one of which has a repertoire exclusively in Spanish. As part of the Lenten season, Berry’s Solemn Mass Choir is preparing a performance of Arvo Pärt’s Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John). This composition, which lasts about 70 minutes without interruption, sets Chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John, framed by a brief introduction and conclusion, is viewed by many as the culmination of Pärt’s tintinnabuli style.
A key element of that style is transparency of resources. Thus, while the roles of Jesus and Pilate are sung by soloists, baritone Ashley Walker and tenor Jonathan Smucker, respectively, the words of the Evangelist are sung by a vocal quartet, which will consist of soprano Arlyss Hays, mezzo Kristina Blehm, tenor Steve Ziegler, and baritone Rhys Bidder. The choir then takes the “role of the crowd,” in a manner similar to that encountered in the Passion settings of Johann Sebastian Bach. On the instrumental side, there is an organ part (to be played by Harry Whitney), which is supplemented by an quartet consisting of violin (Christopher Whitley), cello (Titilayo), oboe (Ryan Zwahlen), and bassoon (Jamael Smith).
This performance of Pärt’s Passio will begin at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, March 16. The performance will be preceded by a celebration of the Stations of the Cross at 7:30 p.m. St. Dominic’s is located at 2390 Bush Street on the corner of Steiner Street. The performance is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted.