A number of years ago now, when I was 21, I was housesitting over Easter. I watched The Passion of Christ on Good Friday. Through watching it, and thinking about music (as I was want to do at the time, studying Classical Music), I realised that there weren’t many compositions that explored this idea of the Stations of the Cross. While there are many examples of pieces relating to Easter, such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion or St John Passion, I couldn’t think of any that actually combine the stories as is found in the Stations of the Cross. Part of the reason is probably because many versions of the Stations of the Cross include extra-biblical material – that is, parts that have been accepted into the stations through tradition, and weren’t actually biblical. So I decided that I would start writing a piece based upon the Stations of the Cross.
First, I found a version of The Stations of the Cross to follow, which was the one that Pope John Paul II followed in 1991, which I chose because the 14 stations were based on passages from the bible narratives. Of the 14 passages, there’s 3 from Matthew, 3 from Mark, 5 from Luke, and 3 from John. I decided to write for String Quartet and Narration, mainly because I knew how to write for strings, and would be able to utilise the colours and effects effectively to evoke the text. In terms of overall arrangement, I decided that it would work best in 4 movements – the first covering the first 6 stations, then the second with stations 7 to 9, the third with stations 10 to 12, and the final movement with stations 13 and 14.
I originally wanted to base this work from a relatively popular translation of the text, however the number of verses was more than their fair use policy allowed, and upon seeking out permission to use it, I was going to be charged a large amount to use the text, for a licence that would only last 3 years. (As it’s been 7 years since I started this, I’m glad I didn’t shell out the money). As such, the text comes from the Open English Bible, an “open source” Bible released into the public domain. The Narration is notated, but is only intended as a guide as to where it starts, and roughly where it finishes. The narration is intended to sound as natural as possible, but lining up with the elements in the music.
I started by writing prose notes to describe my thoughts as to how each of the four movements would come together. The notes that follow are largely based off those notes, along with what it actually ended up as. Continue reading “The Stations of the Cross”