Some of the greatest classical music compositions that are performed at concert venues, from tiny community halls to the world’s leading concert venues, capture the spirit of Easter and tell the story of the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Holy Week kicks into high gear with a Palm Sunday concert by the St Paul’s Community Choir this Sunday featuring a performance of “The Passion” by John Varley Roberts and Handel’s “Messiah”.
The choir is conducted by Joseph Njoroge, with Anthony Muriuki playing the organ.
“The Passion” also known as the ‘meditation on the sufferings of Christ’ was written in 1902 and is scored for two solo voices (tenor and bass) and chorus with Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass (SATB) chorus.
George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” with its affirmation that “our redeemer liveth” has traditionally been played at Easter since it’s first performance in 1742.
The storyline of this emotional and uplifting work focuses on the nativity, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
For hundreds of years, men and women all around the world have turned to the “Messiah” a classical composition that celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
So popular is this musical work that it has continued to awe listeners more than 250 years after the composer’s death.
“Messiah” is an oratorio composed in 1741 by Handel, and was first performed in Dublin, Ireland, in April 1742.
This choral work has become one of the best known and most frequently performed pieces in Western music.
Handel studied music in his native Germany but became a naturalised British citizen in 1727.
The music for “Messiah” was completed in 24 days with a narrative of three parts: the Prophesy of the birth of Christ; his sacrifice for humankind; and his Resurrection.
Of the three parts of Handel’s piece, the second and third parts are particularly relevant to Easter as they cover the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah.
'Lord of Mercy'
The concert at the St Paul’s Chapel begins with a rendering of “Lord of Mercy” in Kiswahili (“Asiregee Moyowe”) by the Nairobi Voices conducted by Nicholas Omondi.
“This is a powerful build up to the Passion because it creates a perfect mood for the main performance,” says Omondi, who is also the conductor of the Holy Family Basilica Choir.
He says the music is tailored for the message of Palm Sunday and has a special resonance with the day that commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, a week before his resurrection.
There are three guest musicians from the UK led by Dr Alberto Sanna, an Italian violinist and musicologist who has performed on several occasions with the St Paul’s Choir.
Dr Sanna was in Kenya last Easter with a group of music students from Oxford University when they joined the St Paul’s Choir in a performance of “Stabat Mater” a 13th century Latin hymn that portrays the suffering of Mary Mother of Jesus during the crucifixion.
He is the co-founder and director of the Early Music Education, a UK based programme that trains professional musicians reaches out to new audiences through outreach projects, like the partnership with St Paul’s Choir in Kenya.
Four years ago, Dr Sanna was a guest of the St Paul’s Choir in Nairobi during a Palm Sunday performance of “The Crucifixion” by English Composer John Stainer.
He then arranged for the choir to perform during the Cornerstone Arts Festival, an annual event hosted by Liverpool Hope University, in 2015.
“This choir is outstanding because of their ability to perform both Western classical music and African melodies to high standards,” Dr Sanna he told BDLife after last year’s Easter performance.
Dr Sanna is accompanied by Elizabeth Elliot, a cellist who is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Music at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. The other visiting musician is Marino Capulli, a violinist of Italian- Bulgarian origin.