Watch: Renowned Hyderabad choir group performs 'The Crucifixion' for Passion Week

The Tabernacles, a 54-year-old group, performed the oratorio and released it online for people to watch at home.
A photo of the Tabernacles group performing
A photo of the Tabernacles group performing
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The Tabernacles, touted as Telangana’s oldest choral group who are renowned in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, has performed Sir John Stainer’s ‘The Crucifixion’ during this passion week. The 54-year-old choir, comprising men and women, has members from different Christian denominations. Since the group could not perform the song for large audiences due to pandemic-induced restriction, they have uploaded the live recording online for people to enjoy.

If you’re from Hyderabad and interested in western classical music, it is very unlikely that you have not come across The Tabernacles. Founded in 1967, the group has grown from a small troupe with a piano, accordion and acoustic guitar to a full-fledged choir. In the five decades since its inception, the group has performed a wide range of classics, from Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’, Mozart’s ‘God is Gone Up’, Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ and ‘Kyrie Eleison’ to Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’.

Watch the performance:

‘The Crucifixion’ is a beautiful oratorio that presents the pain and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, his purpose in going through this cruel death, people’s indifference to his agony and all the emotions that came along with the experience. The various emotions expressed through music by the Tabernacles are heart rending. Though selections from the oratorio have been sung by many choirs on many occasions, very few choirs in India have attempted to sing the complete work. The Tabernacles presented ‘The Crucifixion’ in a live concert in 2010 at Wesley Church, Secunderabad.  

Speaking to TNM, Zubin Gibson, who leads The Tabernacles said, “While the excitement, hustle and bustle, the immediate audience response and accolades of a live presentation are missing in a virtual presentation, the latter is much more satisfying in the sense that we can aim at perfection – retakes and rectification are possible and shooting on various locations makes the singing sound and look better. This year, we were able to record our video in the historic Medak Cathedral and in the heritage building of All Saints’ Church in Tirumalagiri. But a live performance has its own place and importance in the life of any group and The Tabernacles will definitely continue to have live concerts once the pandemic is over, which we pray will happen soon.”

Kenneth V Gibson, the founder and the conductor of The Tabernacles, led the group for 50 years. After his demise in 2018, his son Zubin Gibson took over the reins of the choir. People in the city look forward to the annual concert of the group, held usually on the first Saturday of December every year. Sometimes, they also present a mid-year concert. The motto of the group is ‘Service through Singing’.

Zubin Gibson leading the choir

This year, for the Passion Concert, 40 singers and seven musicians participated. A children’s choir was also formed with 25 children, who were trained to sing in parts.

Sir John Stainer, a music scholar and organist, was born in 1840. His music was very popular during his lifetime. ‘The Crucifixion’ is one of his few music compositions that is still performed in some churches of the Anglican Communion. Stainer was considered one of the best organists of his generation, and was known for his improvisation skills. Even today, many people credit him for raising the standard of Cathedral music.

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