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Programme Notes: Opera


The Passioun o Sanct Andraa  Opus 50

A Church Opera for Singers and Players. 

Words in Lowland Scots by Jamie Reid Baxter
















Summary of the Plot

The Prologue sets the historical scene; the rioting and burning of the Reformation have been going on since May; the terrified monks of the Cistercian Abbey at Kinloss hear their Abbot read out a letter from the Bishop of Moray, telling them not to upset the reformers, and not to celebrate the mass. The Abbot (who like the Bishop is part of the corrupt hierarchy that has brought the Old Kirk to its knees) decides that St. Andrew’s Day must be celebrated despite the freezing cold. The monks grumble, and decide to sing a short mass written in 1546, a fateful year.

The mass begins with a Procession and then the passion play is interwoven with the first part, the Liturgy of the Word. It depicts the argument between the Apostle and the Roman Proconsul, Egeas, about the meaning of worship, life and death, centred on the Cross. After he is crucified, St. Andrew has a vision of how his bones are brought to Scotland and how he becomes patron saint of that land. Here the play ends with the triumphant singing of the Creed.

But it all goes wrong; the invisible world breaks in on the monks of Kinloss, and the young monk who had sung the part of St. Andrew delivers a series of appalling prophecies. The Abbot, who realises this is the judgement of Heaven, keeps the ancient ritual of Christ’s sacrifice going, as the black visions continue and the apostle rejects his destiny - he can die for Christ, but not for this self-destruction of a nation. He finally accepts his destiny and leads the community in a great lamentation for all the tragic folly of Scottish history.

In the final part of the work, the Abbot, stricken with grief and guild, entrusts the young monk with the Holy Gifts and sends the choirboys forth to beg upon the winter roads. The last words - from the children - refer to the original loss from which all mankind’s losses stem; the loss of innocence in the Fall of Man.

Gasperich Church, Luxembpourg, St Andrew’s Day, 1991. Further performances at Gasperich (1. 12. 1991), St Andrew’s Church, Brussels (22. 2. 1992), Dunfermline Abbey (Scottish Premiere, 23. 8. 1992) and in the Edinbrough Festival from 24th - 28th August 1992 at All Saints, Toll Cross.

Click below to access the PDF file of the CD booklet, with complete libretto.


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