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CCM's Staged 'St. Matthew Passion' a First in the Midwest

Bach's masterpiece is recreated in a rare staged performance on Nov. 20 at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati.

Date: 11/8/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: Jenifer Thomas
Other Contact: Curt Whitacre
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-2683
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

UC ingot  
Shawn Mlynek, tenor, as one of the Evangelists in CCM's rare staged performance of Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion.'
Shawn Mlynek, tenor, as one of the Evangelists in CCM's rare staged performance of Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion.'

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) Chamber Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra and Cincinnati Children’s Choir combine for an afternoon featuring one of the timeless masterworks of choral music: J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. This massive staged undertaking, the first of its kind in the Midwest, will be held at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral (Eighth and Plum Streets, Cincinnati) at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20. The concert is being presented in conjunction with St. Peter in Chains' "Great Music in a Great Space" concert series.

Known for its stunning choruses, interplay between recitative and aria, and sublime storytelling, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion has made an enduring mark in music history as a monumental example of a musical setting of the passion story. Thanks in part to a grant from the Tangeman Sacred Music Center, CCM’s production comes to life in a unique staged performance, illuminating the dramatic intensity of the piece and portraying the modern concerns of secular versus sacred.

To make this conflict between faith and religion vivid for today’s audience, the production divides the main role of the Evangelist between two tenors, who alternate scenes to argue over how to best tell the story of the crucifixion to their audience in Cincinnati. The first Evangelist is a televangelist who comes to question how he expresses his faith. The second is a prisoner on Ohio’s death row – an anti-Evangelist who becomes a disciple over the course of the production. Each aria soloist interrupts the narrative to actively respond to an aspect of the story. The choruses and orchestras are equally active players in the performance and participate in the staging.

The Chamber Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra and Cincinnati Children’s Choir are joined by faculty artist William McGraw, baritone as Jesus, and student vocalists as the Evangelists (Ian McEuen and Shawn Mlynek, tenors), Pilate (John McCarthy, baritone), and aria singers (Holly Cameron and Abigail Santos, sopranos; Kate Wakefield, mezzo-soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Ian Ramirez, tenor; Wesley Brax, baritone, and Derrell Acon, bass-baritone).

This unique and inspirational presentation of St. Matthew Passion is directed by Jennifer Williams, a second year artist diploma candidate in opera stage direction. CCM Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies Earl Rivers conducts.

Performance Date:
1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20
St. Peter in Chains Cathedral
Eighth and Plum Streets
Cincinnati, Ohio

Tickets & Parking Information
Tickets to St. Matthew Passion are $15 pre-concert and $20 day-of concert for adults, $5 for non-UC students and free for UC students. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the CCM Box Office (online at or 513-556-4183).

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Sponsored by CCM's Tangeman Sacred Music Center