awaiting publication by Gonzaga
Arrangement of two chorales from Bach’s St Matthew Passion (O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden and Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden) in the dramatic context of a “Breaking news” TV reportage, with linking narrative (in English) for a TV anchorwoman and a male reporter (Matthew Evangelist). This piece was created for Swayne’s residency at the University of Wisconsin in April 2015.
ANCHOR: We’re going over now to our Middle East correspondent Matthew Evangelis in Jerusalem, where convicted terrorist Yeshua ben Yossef was today sentenced to death by crucifixion. Some viewers may find parts of Matthew’s report disturbing. What can you tell us, Matthew?
MATTHEW: Thank you, Martha. The atmosphere here in Jerusalem was tense today and the miltary were on high alert as Yeshua ben Yossef – known to his supporters as Jesus – was led in shackles under heavy guard from the governor’s courthouse, where he had been sentenced to death for sedition and terrorist offences, into a public yard, where a large crowd of rowdy soldiers had gathered. Mr. ben Yossef is hailed by his followers as a charismatic spiritual and nationalist leader – which is why the authorities here find him dangerous. At this post-trial appearance, after a brutal flogging, sleep deprivation, and what the Governor’s spokesman described as “enhanced interrogation techniques”, he was pale from loss of blood, seemed barely able to stand, and his head and body were covered with cuts and bruises. The guards (who seemed more than a little drunk) tore off his clothes, draped a purple cloth around his shoulders, and forced a circle of twisted thorns onto his head as mock crown. They put a stick in his right hand, in imitation of a royal sceptre, and knelt in front of him, jeering and shouting:
CHOIR: Hail, king of the Jews! Yah!
MATTHEW: Then the guards punched him, kicked him, and spat at him, and one of them grabbed the stick out of his hand and beat him viciously over the head with it, causing the thorns to pierce his scalp and make deep lacerations, and fresh blood from these new injuries ran down his face and body.
CHOIR (sung): O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,
Voll Schmerz und voller Hohn . . .
Wer hat dein Augenlicht,
dem sonst kein Licht nicht gleichet,
so schändlich zugericht?
ANCHOR: Welcome back for a continuation of our report on the execution of Yeshua ben Yossef. We’re going over live to Matthew Evangelis outside Jerusalem. We apologise for the poor quality of the link, which is due to freak weather conditions.
MATTHEW: Thank you, Martha. I hope you can hear me over this terrible storm. It’s ten at night here, and I’m at the Golgotha execution site, from where I can now report that ben Yossef has been executed. Here are the details, some of which are extremely distressing. He was brought here at about four this afternoon, along with two common criminals. All three men, screaming with pain, were nailed by their wrists and feet to crosses, which were then hauled upright. On ben Yossef’s cross was a sign which read “Yeshua ben Yossef, king of the Jews” – a reference to the crime of sedition of which he was convicted. Golgotha lies on a busy road near the north gate of Jerusalem. Many passers-by stopped to stare at the crosses; and some of them, seeing the sign, laughed and jeered at ben Yossef.
CHOIR: If you’re the king of the Jews, get off that cross!
MATTHEW: Some of the Rabbis and Jewish elders, annoyed by ben Yossef’s popularity and offended by his claim to be the Messiah, had come to witness his humiliation.
CHOIR: You see? He claimed to help others, but he can’t even help himself! He says he’s the son of God – let God help him !
MATTHEW: At six o’clock the sun began to go down, and the guards sat around playing dice as they waited for their prisoners to die. At about nine, ben Yossef cried out in a loud voice:
CHRIST (sung, with choir & continuo)
Eli, Eli, lamma asabachthani?
The bystanders thought he was calling on Elias, and one of them fetched a sponge full of vinegar to quench his thirst. But the others stopped him and said:
Wait! Wait! Let’s see if his Prophet will save him!
But just then ben Yossef uttered a cry of agony, and died. At the same moment there was a flash of lightning, and a thunderstorm erupted. Most of the spectators fled to the city to take shelter; only a few of ben Yossef’s family and supporters remained, to take down his body and prepare it for burial. Soon Golgotha was deserted. So there it is, Martha: Yeshua ben Yossef, whose charisma & courage have made him so popular with the poor and marginalised, and so unpopular with the Roman authorities here, has been executed. The government will probably breathe a sigh of relief at his death; but having interviewed some of his associates & supporters, I suspect this is not the end of the story. And now, back to the studio.
Thank you, Matt. That report from Matthew Evangelis live at Golgotha, outside Jerusalem.
Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden,
so scheide nicht von mir . . .
So reiß mich aus den Ängsten
kraft deiner Angst und Pein!