I was looking forward to this performance of the “Stabat Mater” by Karl Jenkins the whole week. FMR has been playing excerpts from this epic work throughout the week, which further enhanced my excitement. And what a divine performance it was! To listen to this music in the sacred space of St George’s Cathedral, complete with atmospheric lighting, was an unforgettable experience.

An orchestra and three great choirs combined forces for tonight’s performance: Stadskoor Tygerberg conducted by Linda Claassen, who also conducted tonight’s performance, VOX Cape Town directed by John Woodland and Cantique Chamber Choir from Robertson directed by Jaco Beeslaar. Mezzo-soprano Minette du Toit-Pearce sang the solo parts with absolute sensitivity and almost etheric beauty. Congratulations to everyone involved on a most memorable performance of this great work!

Words cannot describe the power of music that filled my soul… I experienced heaven and what I imagine it would be.

Wonderful performance of the “Stabat Mater” by Karl Jenkins. Beautiful atmosphere and absolutely sublime music. A very special thank you to everyone who made tonight’s performance a special and memorable event.

It was a total spiritual, ethereal experience.

Embark on a choral and orchestral journey to solace…

On Friday 12 October 2018, VOX Cape Town staged its most ambitious musical project yet. In collaboration with two other local choirs, Stadskoor Tygerberg and the Robertson-based Cantique Chamber Choir, almost 100 singers and 25 instrumentalists joined forces to present a contemporary setting of the “Stabat Mater” by Karl Jenkins in the magnificent acoustic of St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town.

This setting of the “Stabat Mater” was written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins just ten years ago in 2008. The text meditates on the suffering of Mary (and, by extension, mothers everywhere) during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; the title of the work is taken from the first line of the choral text: “Stabat Mater dolorosa” (“The sorrowful Mother was standing”).

Over the centuries, this text has been set to music by Pergolesi, Haydn, Rossini, Dvořák and Arvo Pärt, amongst others. The setting by Jenkins comprises an eclectic fusion of tone colours and musical scales from both Middle-Eastern and Western traditions, giving fresh expression and intensity to the medieval text.

In addition to the original “Stabat Mater” poem, which dates back to the 13th century, Jenkins incorporates other secular and sacred texts in his setting including extracts from the ancient Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the writings of the 13th-century Persian mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī. The work is framed by bold, sweeping movements and its heart is a simple setting of a single line – “And the Mother did weep” – sung in English, Hebrew, Latin, Greek and Aramaic.

Jenkins was knighted in 2015 for “services to composing and crossing musical genres”; he is the most frequently performed living composer. John Woodland provided a biographical sketch of the composer and some insights into the music in his pre-performance talk, while the audience enjoyed refreshments.

Online tickets sold out the day before the performance and, on the night itself, St George’s Cathedral was packed to the rafters with over 800 audience members. The musicians were dressed in white, symbolising the innocence and purity of the sorrowful Mother, and acted as a canvas for Kyle Paulssen’s atmospheric lighting that was designed to enhance the mood of each of the twelve movements.

Linda Claassen conducted the work with sincerity and sensitivity. Minette du Toit-Pearce was the vocal soloist; one might have thought that the part had been written especially for her. The orchestra was led by Lucia di Blasio-Scott, replete with three percussionists and Mario Nell at the organ. After the relentless, driving finale of the “Amen” movement, the audience leapt to its feet in thunderous applause as a tribute to the performers for their exquisite presentation of this choral and orchestral journey to solace. To mark this first performance of the work in Cape Town, the concert was recorded live for possible future release.

Interview on Fine Music Radio 101.3 FM about the "Stabat Mater"

by Waldo Buckle and John Woodland

On Friday 5 October 2018, Fine Music Radio invited VOX on air to talk about our performance of the “Stabat Mater” by Karl Jenkins. John Woodland spoke to Waldo Buckle about the musical forces involved, the composer’s somewhat controversial reputation, the logistics of coordinating over 100 voices and what the audience can expect at the performance.