Claire Ward to perform with Figure Ensemble

Claire Ward

City Music Foundation Artist Claire Ward will perform with Baroque ensemble Figure in an upcoming concert at Swiss Church on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th March. This is My Body promises an immersive, surround-sound performance of Dieterich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri (1680), a visceral Baroque choral meditation on the crucified body of Christ.

In a sequence of seven short cantatas, each dedicated to a different aspect of Christ’s body on the cross (from his feet to his face, including his heart), Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima (Most Holy Limbs of our Suffering Jesus) contemplates both the anatomy and the agony of the crucifixion, as well as its salvation and joy. Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach’s narrative depictions of the Passion story, Buxtehude paints a series of moving tableaux, combining devotional poetry with music of extraordinary, heart-rending and, at times, terrifying immediacy and intimacy.   


About the Music

This unique ‘Passion-meditation’ was likely first-performed as part of the annual Abendmusiken concert series at the Marienkirche in Lübeck (in modern North Germany), where Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707) was organist from 1668 until his death. Removed from the stricture of church liturgy, Membra Jesu Nostri acts as a devotional aid, inviting the listener (and viewer) to stop and survey Christ’s afflicted body, guiding both the eye and the ear around the spectacle; all the while accentuating the relationship between His corporeal sacrifice and their redemption, a central tenet of Buxtehude’s Lutheran faith. In short, Membra Jesu Nostri brings the listener into a communion with Christ – “this is my body”. The title page of the original manuscript even carries the words, “to be sung with the humblest devotion of the whole heart”. 


What to expect

Performed by solo voices (from memory) and strings, in the warm resonance of the elegant, white-washed Swiss Church (Covent Garden), Figure’s performance will both amplify Buxtehude’s original intentions and embody its subject matter by placing a standing audience in the body of the sound – in the heart of the Passion scene – as the singers move freely throughout the space. Directed from the chamber organ by Figure’s Musical and Co-Artistic Director, Frederick Waxman, the performance will run uninterrupted (around 60 minutes) before the evening gives way to drinks and further, more informal music-making. 

Claire Ward is a British/Irish soprano based in London. In 2022 Claire became an Opera Prelude Young Artist and returned to perform with Opera Holland Park in the chorus of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.


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