The Crucifixion (Stainer)

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The Crucifixion
Oratorio by John Stainer
TextW J Sparrow Simpson
VocalSATB choir and solo

The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer is an oratorio composed by John Stainer in 1887. It is scored for a SATB choir and organ, and features solos for bass and tenor.[1] Stainer intended the piece to be within the scope of most parish church choirs; it includes five hymns for congregational participation.[2] The text was written by W J Sparrow Simpson, the librettist of Stainer's earlier cantata Mary Magdalene.[3] The work is dedicated "to my pupil and friend W. Hodge and the choir of Marylebone Church", who first performed it on 24 February 1887, the day after Ash Wednesday. There have been performances in Marylebone Church annually since then.[4]

The work continues to be performed today. The oratorio has been recorded several times, including a popular recording released by RCA Victor in 1930, featuring Richard Crooks and Lawrence Tibbett.[5]

The final hymn of the work, All for Jesus
The chorus, God so loved the world, which is often sung as a stand-alone anthem

There is a modern (2016) recording by the Choir of St. Marylebone Parish Church with Thomas Allery (organ), conducted by Gavin Roberts.[6] Stainer's work has in recent times been performed in an orchestrated version. For instance Craig Hawkins' arrangement of the work has been performed in the USA (2004 premiere, New York) and the UK (Norwich, 2010). Barry Rose has also produced an orchestration.[7]


The oratorio consists of the following movements:[8]

  1. And They Came to a Place Named Gethsemane (tenor recitative) – text from Mark 14:32
  2. The Agony (tenor and bass solo and chorus) – including text from Mark 14:46, 53, 60, 61–64, 15:1, 15–16
  3. Processional to Calvary (organ solo) and "Fling Wide the Gates" (chorus and tenor solo)
  4. And When They Were Come (bass recitative) – text from Luke 23:33
  5. The Mystery of the Divine Humiliation (hymn)
  6. He Made Himself of No Reputation (bass recitative) – text from Philippians 2:7–8
  7. The Majesty of the Divine Humiliation tenor solo
  8. And As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent (bass recitative) – text from John 3:14–15
  9. God So Loved the World (chorus or quartet a cappella) – text from John 3:16–17
  10. Litany of the Passion (hymn)
  11. Jesus Said, 'Father, Forgive Them' (tenor and male chorus recitative) – text from Luke 23:34
  12. So Thou Liftest Thy Divine Petition (tenor and bass solo duet)
  13. The Mystery of the Intercession (hymn)
  14. And One of the Malefactors (bass solo and male chorus) – text from Luke 23:39–43
  15. The Adoration of the Crucified (hymn)
  16. When Jesus Therefore, Saw His Mother (tenor solo and male chorus) – text from John 19:26–27, Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:34
  17. Is It Nothing to You? (bass solo) – text from Lamentations 1:12
  18. The Appeal of the Crucified (chorus)
  19. After This, Jesus Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished (tenor and male chorus recitative) – text from John 19:28, 30, Luke 23:46
  20. For the Love of Jesus (hymn)

Critical opinion[edit]

The composer Ernest Walker dismissed the work, writing in 1924 that "Musicians today have no use for The Crucifixion". Edmund Fellowes said: "It suffers primarily from the extreme poverty, not to say triviality, of the musical ideas dealing with a subject which should make the highest demand for dignity of treatment".[9] Kenneth Long said that Stainer had a libretto "which for sheer banality and naïveté would be hard to beat".[10] Stainer himself characterised his work as "rubbish".[11] In his A Short History of English Church Music, Erik Routley traced The Crucifixion as the archetypal work that others imitated, and often diluted.

"Much of the rest of [Stainer's] music and the whole of [his] libretto where it is not quoting scripture, is a caricature of the sensational triviality which, no matter how great the efforts of their latter day defenders, we are bound to attribute to the Victorians. From The Crucifixion you go down into the underworld of Michael Costa, Caleb Simper and J.H. Maunder (the last two of whom prompted Vaughan Williams once to enliven one of his pugnacious comments about all this with the phrase 'composers with ridiculous names': their names are about the one thing these composers couldn't help; other aspects of their activities are less innocent)."[12]

Maunder's Olivet to Calvary (1904) is sometimes performed as an alternative to The Crucifixion.[13][14]


  1. ^ The Crucifixion (John Stainer) from the Choral Public Domain Library
  2. ^ British Choirs on the Net – The Crucifixion – John Stainer (1840–1901) by John Bawden
  3. ^ Janet Hopewell, Stainer's Librettist, W. J. Sparrow Simpson, The Musical Times, Vol. 124, No. 1682 (Apr., 1983), pp. 255–256 doi:10.2307/962069
  4. ^ Charlton, Peter. John Stainer and the Musical Life of Victorian Britain (1984), pp. 146-155
  5. ^ Barry Rose: "Not Another Crucifixion?" in The American Organist 37:4 (April 2003) on Rose's arrangement for orchestra (publ. Novello)
  6. ^ Reviewed at MusicWeb International
  7. ^ "Review". Gramophone. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  8. ^ review of Naxos recording 8.557624
  9. ^ Edmund Fellowes, English Cathedral Music (1941), p. 223
  10. ^ Kenneth R Long. Music of the English Church (1971), p. 365
  11. ^ Stainer: The Crucifixion, @
  12. ^ Routley, Eric, A Short History of English Church Music (1977)
  13. ^ "The Choir of Leeds Minster". Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  14. ^ "Good Friday – Stainer's Crucifixion and Olivet to Calvary". The Parish of Meltham - Christ the King. 2020-04-10. Retrieved 2021-04-05.

External links[edit]