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 CNS Story:

ROCK-PASSION Mar-28-2006 (520 words) xxxi

British production of Passion set to rock songs

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- Move over Bach, Mozart and Stravinsky: A modern new musical version of Christ's Passion will be performed in England on Good Friday to the sound of rock music.

The Manchester Passion will dramatize the final hours of the life of Jesus with songs from local rock groups, including Oasis, Joy Division, New Order, James, the Smiths and M-People.

However, in this production, the songs will be accompanied by a 16-piece string orchestra, arranged by Philip Sheppard, cello professor at London's Royal Academy of Music. The play will be produced and televised by the British Broadcasting Corp.

The production has been criticized by some Christian groups because of the sex and drugs often associated with the Manchester rock-and-roll scene.

The event, however, has the broad support of the mainstream churches, including the Catholic Diocese of Salford. Bishop Terence Brain of Salford said he plans to meet the producers of the play.

Father Denis Clinch of St. Mary Church, near the city center, said producers want young people to be "touched by the Passion, which they will graphically illustrate."

"Our approach is to say that if it gets people interested in the Passion and Resurrection, it sounds positive to us," said Father Michael Walsh, communications officer for the Salford Diocese. "It is aimed at younger people, the 16 to 30 age group. It wouldn't suit everybody, but we are certainly not against it."

In the statement, the BBC said the "contemporary retelling" of the biblical account of the death of Christ took its "inspiration from the way Bach and other composers fused music and the Passion story."

The production will begin in the city's red light and gay district, where the character playing Jesus will sing "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division, a punk band from the 1970s and 1980s, during a re-enactment of the Last Supper.

The character of Judas, about to betray Jesus, will then sing "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" by the 80s band The Smiths.

The characters, dressed in contemporary fashions, will then slowly make their way to Albert Square in the city center. On the way, Jesus will sing "Sit Down" by the band James, as he urges the apostles to sit on a street wall during a scene re-creating his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

As Jesus is arrested by characters dressed as British police officers, he and Judas will perform a duet of "Blue Monday" by New Order, which begins: "How does it feel to treat me like you do?"

The performers will then carry a 25-foot cross into Albert Square, where the trial of Jesus will be accompanied by a rendition of Oasis's "Wonderwall," a song that contains the line: "I said maybe you're gonna be the one who saves me."

A character portraying Mary will stand at the foot of the cross and sing "Search for the Hero" by M-People.

Finally, Jesus will emerge on the roof of Manchester Town Hall, which dominates the square, to symbolize his resurrection as "Wonderwall" is sung for a second time.


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