Talents of Jessop and Ballam combine for ‘colossal choral masterwork’

Two weeks remain for what founder and general director Michael Ballam calls the most successful season yet for Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre. Ballam says a highlight of the season comes on Wednesday, August 8 when  the UFOMT and the American Festival Chorus collaborate to present Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in the Ellen Eccles Theatre.

It is described as Bach’s, “colossal choral masterwork.” Dean Craig Jessop of the Utah State University Caine of the College of the Arts, founder and conductor of the American Festival Chorus, says former USU Music Department great William Ramsey will sing the role of Jesus in what Jessop describes as “among the greatest creations of religious art of all time.”

Jessop says St. Matthew Passion was not meant to be applauded as a concert.

“It was meant as an act of devotion and worship,” Jessop said on KVNU’s Crosstalk show Monday. “In Bach’s day, on Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified, they would come to the church for over four hours to relive the last week of the life of Jesus.

“So the drama begins at the last supper, the betrayal by Judas, the prayer in the garden, the mock trial before Pontius Pilate, the betrayal.”

Jessop says this is believed to be the premiere performance of St. Matthew Passion in Cache Valley. He says it requires a double orchestra, a double choir, six soloists in major roles and nearly a dozen soloists in ancillary roles.

The performance starts at 6:30 p.m. on August 8 and tickets are available through the Dansante Building or by phone: (435) 750-0300 ext. 106.

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