Held at Watford LDS Meetinghouse on 19 April 2014 at 2:30pm.
Rob Gardner's musical masterpiece, retracing the tragic events of Jesus Christ's death, followed by His glorious Resurrection is by no means a simple or easy piece to perform. So when I tell you that the cast and crew of the first UK production did it with all the polish of a professional set up, you know it is not faint praise I am offering, especially when it was an amateur production.
The difficulty with this piece is the constant shift from powerful crescendos and then smoothly move to poignant, personal moments. The music tells an account that is epic in its importance but is fundamentally a personal trial for a few people. Since the Saviour is not represented, the account is told from important witness viewpoints, including Peter, played by Robin Dick, whose voice demonstrated incredible power and yet accurately portrayed the breaking heart of a man who denied knowing his Master. Yet the overall performance was not missing gentleness or tenderness. Montana Ellis, playing the role of Mary, Mother of Jesus, brought a broken softness with her performance. Trying to convey the feelings of a mother as she watches her son be scourged and then crucified in song is no mean feat but you felt her devastation, in a deep, dignified manner.
Other solo performances really shone and to name check them all would not be unmerited. They were that good. The choir as a whole raised the entire performance to glorious highs, the kind that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. This is a group that would not have seemed out of place in the West End and rightly earned their standing ovation at the end. Megan Hodun, Vocal Director and Executive Producer, should rightly be praised for the tour de force performance given by the choir.
The orchestra performed beautifully, keeping the story moving at a pace but never being intrusive. Masterfully conducted by Philip Siu, the other Executive Producer, the music swept us along from triumph to tragedy, from Christ's noble entrance into Jerusalem to his inequitable betrayal on Gethsemane. No visuals were required. The music accurately conveyed the grief felt atop Golgotha and then the joy felt three days later, as Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb and her Resurrected Lord. It was a piece of music that was executed brilliantly.
The sacred nature of the content means that the only true marker of success is whether people felt like they had a spiritual experience. I defy anyone who was in that room to say that they didn't. I have a heart of stone, at best, and even I walked away uplifted and edified from the performance. If I had a criticism, it would be the venue just wasn't big enough for such a performance. It was something I wish more and more people could have enjoyed. It was a sensational performance, simply stunning. All involved should be immensely proud of what they achieved. They represented themselves to a level above and beyond what anyone could have imagined. But more importantly, they represented the most sacred event in all history with power, grace and majesty. It was a performance that the central character, the Lord Jesus Christ, would have been proud of.