Community Bach in Johannesburg

Bach wrote his St John’s Passion in 1724 to tell one of the greatest stories of human history. Umculo brings Bach’s vision of human suffering, compassion and unity to Johannesburg with a new staging that brings together six community choirs with professional musicians from South Africa and Europe.

South African director Kobie van Rensburg joins German conductor Felix Bender in a dramatised production of Bach’s extraordinary work. “The St John’s Passion” turns a Bible story that is core to Western philosophy and belief structures into a universal human drama, a tale of injustice, violence, alienation and remorse, viewed from a perspective of empathy.

Umculo’s “PASSION” unites South Africans of all ages from diverse backgrounds in an exceptional and ambitious venture. This will be the first time that one of Bach’s oratorios has been dramatised in South Africa (following a European trend in which benchmark stagings such as that by Peter Sellars for the Berliner Philharmoniker and Pierre Audi for the Dutch National Opera). The decision to perform the work with a professional choir, soloists and orchestra playing at baroque pitch (A=415Hz) illustrates Umculo’s commitment to musical excellence.

Bach composed his work around Lutheran chorales which are simple and strong, in order to draw in his congregations through a participatory element. By working with community choirs, including the Hillbrow Theatre’s newly-formed youth choir, Umculo brings the work back to Bach’s intentions of a musical event in which the listeners took active part.

Performances on 25, 26 and 27 May.

CONDUCTOR Felix Bender
DIRECTOR Kobie van Rensburg
EVANGELIST Siyabonga Maqungo (25,27) / Albertus Engelbrecht(26)
JESUS Stephen Schalkwyk
SOLOISTS include:
Lynelle Kenned, Antoinette Blythe, Nick de Jager, Monica Mhangwana, Albertus Engelbrecht,
Siyabonga Maqungo, Phiwe Makaula, Ronald Melato

The Umculo Ripieno Ensemble (Pieter Bezuidenhout),
UP Voice Students (Hanli Stapela), Water in Wine Society (Paul Pretorius),
Meadowlands Seventh-day Adventist Church Choir (Mokale Koapeng), Northwest Choral Clinique
(Patrick Tsotleho Motshabi), Hillbrow Theatre Youth Choir (Phiwe Makaula),
4Fourty Chamber Choir (Siegfried Pretsch), Choir of Christ Church Arcadia (George King)

Please contact Kobie van Rensburg or Shirley Apthorp on (082)6863049,
for further information

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