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Durham Cathedral Choir prepares for upcoming St. John Passion Concert

10 April 2019

Durham Cathedral Choir are busy with final rehearsals, ahead of their performance of J.S Bach’s St. John Passion which is taking place at the cathedral on Palm Sunday, 14 April at 7pm.

St. John Passion is a dramatic and compelling biblical narration of the crucifixion story with a penetrating reflection of the meaning of the events as described by John. The work features rousing choruses and aria’s which provide moments for meaningful contemplation. With an affirming confident conclusion, unlike some of the other passion oratorios, the piece really is one not to be missed this passiontide.

The choir will be conducted by Daniel Cook, Master of the Choristers and Organist at Durham Cathedral, who will team with the Avison Ensemble, led by renowned period instrument violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk.

Pavlo Beznosiuk said: ‘I am really looking forward to performing alongside Daniel Cook, the choir and my fellow musicians from the Avison Ensemble to mark the start of Holy Week on Palm Sunday. I can’t wait to bring the colourful and dramatic quality of Bach’s baroque music to a contemporary audience in the awe-inspiring space of Durham Cathedral. The palette of colours that Bach elicits from the choir, soloists and orchestra is extraordinary, and these come to life during the St. John Passion. He was nothing short of a genius.’

What makes the performance even more special is that no starry soloists are brought in, instead all the soloists come from the choir, giving youngsters the opportunity to develop their skills and love of music. It adds to the whole community nature of the performance, and screams, ‘This is a Durham passion!’ It’s lovely to have this variety, it’s exactly what would have happened in Bach’s day.’

The Evangelist will be sung by Phil Durrant, a Durham Cathedral Tenor Lay-Clerk, on what will be Phil’s final St. John Passion performance, before his time as a Lay-Clerk comes to an end this summer.

Phil Durrant said: ‘I feel very privileged to perform the role of the Evangelist in Sunday’s St. John Passion. It is always a thrilling experience to have the chance to thread together this crucial and extraordinary episode of the gospel narrative, especially as every corner of Bach’s music is fuelled by intense drama.

'I look back on my four years in Durham Cathedral Choir, first as a Choral Scholar and then as a Lay-Clerk, with great thankfulness. I am enormously grateful to have worked with so many talented friends and colleagues, and although I leave for the Royal College of Music in September, I leave with many cherished memories of my time as part of the cathedral community. Sunday’s St. John Passion will be another momentous occasion for me, rounding off what has been a wonderful period at Durham Cathedral.’           

Tickets are priced from £8 to £28 and are available from the cathedral's visitor desk on 0191 3387178 or online at:

Picture by John Attle