St Mark Passion

A New Oratorio

with the Music of G. F. Handel, by William Bouvel

S t Mark Passion is a new oratorio created by William Bouvel and premiered at Southwark Cathedral on March 29th, 2015. It tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion from Mark’s gospel with alternating narration and musical selections from 17 different works by G.F. Handel, like The Messiah, curated to complement the gospel story.

Consistent with other Song reCycle projects, St Mark Passion updates the context for music, so that audiences can receive it as fresh, alive, and relevant. Music and texts from other stories and other characters are aligned in this case to express the humanity of the characters in the gospel story, especially of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Peter. By drawing out the emotions of these characters during the complicated moments of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, we are able to see the story not only as a religious one but also as a human one.

Handel’s eternally human music makes such an interpretation possible. Even though none of the music was intended to be heard this way, Handel was certainly writing for similar themes that complement the gospel story. Yet more than just illustrating the Passion, William’s curation of music and text gives them both a remarkable poignancy and brings a contemporary and personal interpretation to this epic story.

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This excerpt from Act 1 tells of Peter’s vow to defend Jesus and Jesus’ prayers in the garden of Gethsemane. It features the music Place Danger Around Me (from Joshua), With Firm United Hearts (from Athalia), Jehova (from the Occasional Oratorio), and How Willing Your Eternal Love (from Samson) with artists James Sherlock (Organ), Thomas Guthrie (Mark), William Bouvel (Jesus), Christopher Dollins (Peter), The Templar Scholars (Choir), and Victoria Longdon (Choral Conductor).

The full world premiere performance at Southwark Cathedral can be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. You can read the program notes, biographies, and word book for that performance below.