Stabat Mater is a 13th century poem, largely about the crucifiction of Christ; but focusing on Mary. Over the years, a number of composers have composed musical arrangements around the hymn; with Karl Jenkins being the latest.
Almost everyone has heard Karl Jenkins' work; as the programme pointed out last night - his breakout "hit" Adiemus being the staple of spas and restaurants (and in ads, lifts and every other place with piped mood music). He is probably the most successful living classical composer; and although a number of his works feature Christian hymns; he often intertwines them with other cultural pieces; such as Arabic, Aramaic and English verses in his version of Stabat Mater.
As part of Arts Alive, the University of Johannesburg Choir, Akustika Chamber Singers, backed with a full orchestra, performed the full Stabat Mater, conducted by Karl Jenkins himself. The concert also featured two smaller pieces; The Palladio Suite, a string orchestra piece; and La Folia, a concerto for Marimba accompanied by a string orchestra. The latter was particularly impressive - and provided a great fusion of musical styles; with a superb solo performance by Magda de Vries.
The main event itself was spectacular - and Johannesburg City Hall is a spectacular venue; especially as the stage is framed by a stunning organ (not sure if it works though). Interestingly, given the somber nature of the work, the music was rarely somber, and was in some ways fairly joyful. The pieces in Arabic and Aramaic, ironically, provided the most somber notes to the piece.
It is also very interesting to see how different choir members participate - especially in such a long piece. There were performers who seemed to be genuinely enthralled - swaying and smiling through the whole performances; while others were more somber and were almost non participants.
I am not a massive fan of choir music - but I must say that I have now been to quite a few this year, and all have been interesting. And all of the feature pieces have been based on Christian hymns - maybe I need to expand my horizons.