We’d thought for a long time about a major choral piece, and Bach’s St Matthew Passion seemed a good choice. We’d done an adaptation of the Chester Mystery plays, the 13th-century Passion plays, and that was a very interesting and absorbing rehearsal period, so we wanted to look at the story of Christ in a different way.
Isango Ensemble’s St Matthew Passion. Photo © Helge Skodvin
We’ve heavily adapted it – there’s a tremendous amount of Bach’s music, but we’ve also taken elements of text from the Gospels and the Mystery plays, and woven spoken dialogue into the piece as well.
The overall sweep of the St Matthew Passion has always attracted me, I find it incredibly emotional. I love that so much of it is for large numbers – it’s not just the individuals that are important, it’s the sense that we’re all part of the story. When it was first performed in a church it was a very different experience. But hopefully we convey something of that sense of being completely absorbed, of the story’s impact.
It’s very simply staged. It’s in modern dress and the marimbas are visible...