Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


‘Play Of Herod’ Will Be Performed At Cathedral

Published diciembre 20, 2007  | Available In English

In a special Epiphany performance, “The Play of Herod” will be presented at the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 8:30 p.m. A donation of $15 is requested.

“The Play of Herod” is one of Atlanta’s longest-running Christmas traditions, first performed here in 1974. It is one of a group of dramas found in a French Benedictine monastery, which are among the earliest dramatic works in the Christian era. By the 12th century, these liturgical dramas, sung in churches and monasteries, enacted miracle tales and biblical stories.

In this play, the Christmas story unfolds in a medieval ceremony of simple gestures and ancient, haunting melodies. A tale is told of awestruck shepherds, kings from afar who have come to worship a baby, King Herod desperately clinging to power, and the bloody slaughter of children. The world of Herod is dreamlike, shadowy and stark.

This performance by the Atlanta Camerata will take place on the eve of the Epiphany, whose Gospel reading tells of the arrival of the three Magi from the East to pay homage to the newborn King. The director is Kelly Morris with Kevin Culver as music director.

The play and music were originally passed down through oral tradition, and only in the 12th century did they finally find their way into musical notation and manuscripts. Several chants in “The Play of Herod” are still sung in church services.

“The power of this simple music to sustain itself and those who use it in worship is extraordinary,” said Culver, choirmaster at the Cathedral. “The current interest and revitalization of Latin and chant in the prayer life of the church speaks not only of its staying power, but also of its communicative power. Herod is a wonderful example of this ancient language and music’s ability to remain expressive and relevant. When the characters are singing their parts in Latin chant, it is almost unnecessary to have a literal translation to follow. … The sense, meaning and intent of these lines is clear, even with a rudimentary knowledge of the language. It is clearly a timeless story, and the language and music of the play transcend all temporal limitations and barriers.”

The cast includes Butch Spivey as Herod; John Caponegro as the archangel; Amy Abrames and Wanda Yang Temko as the midwives; Matthew Ireland, Roark Miller and Philip Sasse as the Magi; James Robinson as the armiger; and Kristin Bonner, Cary Cleaver and Susan Crawford as the shepherds. They are surrounded by a host of angels, innocents and scribes. The play is sung in Latin, with English translations projected overhead. A consort of viols, recorders, krumm horn, hurdy-gurdy and percussion accompanies the singers. All are invited. Reservations are not required.


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