Modern performances of Bach's Passion According to St. John--an acknowledged masterpiece of Western music--are inevitably controversial. "In large part, this is because of the combination of powerful, highly emotional music and a text that includes passages from a Gospel marked by vehement anti-Judaic sentiments," according to Catharine Melhorn, professor of music and choral director.
So, in preparation for the April 26 campus performance of the Passion, a symposium titled "Crown of Thorns: Controversies Surrounding Bach's St. John Passion" will be held April 1 to discuss the issues it raises. Among them are these questions: Have the Gospels, and artistic depictions of the Gospels, served to create and perpetuate a cultural climate that denigrates or marginalizes Jews? Is there a difference between professing and performing? What should be done about art that offends?
At a lecture and panel discussion (see calendar section for details), scholars will raise the relevant issues and invite questions and responses from the audience. Melhorn hopes the symposium will provide the MHC community "with an extraordinary chance to reach a deeper understanding of the role art must play in a community and to raise awareness of issues relating specifically to anti-Semitism."