Edinburgh Guide – Stainers’s The Crucifixion at St Cuthbert’s – 4 Stars – 2011

This review — by Barnaby Miln — was originally published on Edinburgh Guide’s Website on Monday, 11 April 2011.

Late afternoon on Passion Sunday in St Cuthbert’s with its frieze behind the altar depicting the Last Supper was well chosen. There are some wonderfully familiar lines in The Crucifixion.

“Fling wide the gates!”, “Crucify!”, “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?” And the best known chorus line – “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.”

Michael Bawtree conducted his choir of a hundred voices so that every word was clear and together, aided by Morley Whitehead on what is the largest organ in Edinburgh.

Up in the pulpit stood the two soloists – both currently studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance. Steven Phillips, the tenor, and Jamie Rock, the baritone singing the bass part, were remarkably well balanced. Memorable, too, were the two choir members with solo parts.

At the end I was interested to ask the young man sitting beside me following the score what he thought. He was a colleague of the two soloists in the pulpit at RSAMD and had himself to sing the tenor part in a week’s time in Helensburgh. But his main comment was just how good the choir was. I could happily agree.

It was Sir Frederick Ouseley in 1857 who appointed the 16 year old John Stainer as organist of St Michael’s College Tenbury, which he had just built to further the cause of good church music. By the time John Stainer was 33 he was Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Although he wrote a lot of church music he is out of fashion with the exception of The Crucifixion.

Edinburgh Royal Choral Union gave a great performance of a much loved oratorio.

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