The Stations of the Cross Organ Concert - Virtual Event
Join us online, Wednesday, March 31 for "The Stations of the Cross" by Marcel Dupré. Featuring organist, Ken Cowan, the poetry of Paul Claudel, and Rev. Alison L. Boden, Ph.D. as narrator. The concert premieres at 8pm here and will be available after the premiere for you to view at any time. The program for this service is below.
Organ Concert: “The Stations of the Cross” (Le Chemin de la Croix) by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) with poetry of Paul Claudel, organist, Ken Cowan and reader, Rev. Alison L. Boden, Ph.D.**
Poem: “The Way of the Cross” by Paul Claudel, translated by J. Eric Swenson, and read by Rev. Alison L. Boden, Ph.D.
First Station: It’s all over. We have judged God and we have condemned him to die. We don’t want Jesus Christ with us any longer, for he exasperates us. We have no other ruler than Caesar! No other counsel than blood and gold!
Crucify him if you like, but get rid of him! Get him out of here! “Take him away! Take him away!” Since it can’t be helped, let him be sacrificed, and give us Barabbas! Pilate sits in judgement at the place called Gabbatha. “Have you nothing to say?” asks Pilate. And Jesus does not answer. “I find no wrong in this man,” declares Pilate, “but, let him die, since you insist! I give him to you. “Behold the man.” Here he is, a crown on his head and dressed in purple. One last time these eyes turn towards us, full of tears and blood! What can we do? There is no way to keep him with us any longer. As he was a scandal for the Jews, he is among us an absurdity. Besides, the sentence has been pronounced, lacking no detail, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. And one sees the crowd clamor and the judge wash his hands.
Second Station: They return his clothes and bring him the cross. “God be with you,” says Jesus. “O Cross that I have long desired!” And you, Christian, watch and tremble! O what a solemn moment in which Christ first accepts the eternal Cross! O day of consummation of the tree of knowledge! Look, sinner, and see what your sin has led to.
No more crosses without Christ, and no more crimes without a God upon them! Certainly man’s misery is great, yet we have nothing to say, for God is now here, come not to explain, but to fulfill. Jesus receives the Cross just as we take Holy Communion.
As prophesied by Jeremiah, “We give him wood for his bread.” How long, how ungainly, how massive weighs the cross! How hard, how stiff, how heavy the burden of a useless sinner! How long to bear, step by step, until one dies upon it! Are you going to carry that all alone, Lord Jesus?
Make me patient, in turn, with the wood you wish me to bear. For we must carry the cross before the cross carries us.
Third Station: March on! Victim and oppressors together, everything shudders toward Calvary. God led by the collar, suddenly falters and slumps to the earth. What do you say, Lord, of this first fall? Now that you know it, what do you think of this moment? When one falls, pushed by the sway of an unbalanced load! How do you find it, this earth which you created? O not only is the righteous path harsh and rough, the evil path also proves treacherous and dizzying! It is not followed quickly and easily, for one must learn stone by stone, and the foot often slips, although the heart perseveres. O Lord, by these blessed knees, these two knees which together failed you, by the sudden nausea and fall at the beginning of the gruesome Way, by the trap which succeeded, by the earth which you have known, save us from the first sin, which one commits inadvertently!
Fourth Station: O mothers, who have watched a first and only child die, remember that last night beside the moaning little being, the water not taken, the ice, and the thermometer, and death, which comes little by little, no longer to be ignored. Put on his old shoes and change his clothes. Someone is coming who will take him away from me and put him in the ground. Goodby my dear little one! Goodby, flesh of my flesh!
The Fourth Station is Mary, who has accepted everything. Here on the street corner she awaits the Treasure of absolute Poverty. There are no tears in her eyes, her throat is dry. She says not a word and watches Jesus approach. She accepts. One again she accepts. Her outcry severely repressed in her firm, strict heart. She says not a word and watches Jesus Christ. The Mother watches her Son, the Church her Redeemer, her soul goes out to him as violently as the wail of a dying soldier! She stands before God and lays bare her soul. There is nothing in her heart which protests or draws back, every fiber of her transfixed heart accepts and consents. And as God himself is there, she is also present. She accepts and watches this Son she conceived in her womb. She says not a word and watches the Saint of Saints.
Fifth Station: The moment comes when one simply cannot go on. That’s where we fit in, and you allow that we be used also, perhaps coerced, to carry your Cross. As Simon of Cyrene, who is harnessed to this piece of wood. He grasps it firmly and walks behind Jesus, so that none of the Cross may drag on the ground and be lost.
Sixth Station: All of the disciples have fled. Peter himself passionately denies all! A woman throws herself into the thick of insults, into the arms of death, finds Jesus and holds his face in her hands.
Teach us, Veronica, to defy human respect. For he who sees Christ not merely as a symbol, but as a true person, to others soon appears offensive and suspect. His way of life is inside out, his motives are no longer theirs.
Something in him always seems to escape elsewhere. A mature man who says his rosary and impudently goes to confession, who abstains from meat on Friday and is seen among women at mass, is laughable and scandalous; amusing, but also irritating. He had better watch what he is doing, for others see him. He had better watch each step, for he serves as a sign. For each Christian shapes the actual, although unworthy, image of his Christ. And the face he shows bears the trivial reflection of the abominable and triumphant face of the God in his heart!
Show it to us once again Veronica, on the cloth with which you comforted the holy countenance of the Last Sacrament. This veil of pious wool Veronica used to hide the face of the Vintager on the day of his intoxication, so that his image might cling to it forever. An image made of his blood and tears and our spit!
Seventh Station: It is not the stones under foot, nor the halter overstrained; it is the soul which suddenly fails. O in the middle of our life! O the spontaneous fall! When the magnet no longer has a pole and faith no longer a heaven, because the road is long and the end distant, because one remains alone without any consolation! How slowly time passes! Nurturing a secret hatred for the uncompromising injunction and for this wooden companion! This is why we stretch forth both arms at once like someone swimming! No longer do we fall on our knees, but on our face. The body falls, it is true and in the same moment the soul consents. Save us from the Second fall, which one takes willfully and out of boredom.
Eighth Station: Before he ascends the mountain for the last time, Jesus raises his hand and turns toward the people following him, a few poor women in tears with their children in their arms. Let’s not simply look, let’s listen to Jesus, for he is there. It is not a man who raises his hand at the center of this pitiful illumination, it is God who, for our salvation, has suffered not only in paintings. Thus was this man Almighty God! It is true then! There was a day when God truly did suffer for us! What is this danger, from which we have been spared at such a price? Is man’s salvation such a simple matter that the Son must tear himself away from the Father to attain it? If that is Paradise, what is Hell? What shall be done with the dead wood, if green wood is treated like this?
Ninth Station: “I have fallen again, and this time, it’s the end. I would like to get up again, but it’s impossible. For I have been squeezed like a fruit and the man on my shoulders weighs too much. I have done evil and the man who died in me is too heavy! So let’s die, for it is easier to lie down than to stand up, harder to live than to die, more difficult yet, on the Cross than beneath it.”
Save us from the Third sin, that of despair! Nothing is lost as long as death has not been tasted! I have finished with this piece of wood, but the nails are yet to come! Jesus falls a third time, but he is at the top of Calvary.
Tenth Station: Here is the barn floor where the grain of the holy wheat is ground. The Father stands naked, the Temple veil has been torn away. God is manhandled, the Flesh of the Flesh trembles, the Universe, attacked at its source, shudders to its very core! Now that they have taken the tunic and seamless robe. We raise our eyes and dare to look at Jesus, pure and unadorned. They have left you nothing, Lord, they have taken everything, even the clothes which cling to the flesh, for today they pull off the monk’s hood and the blessed virgin’s veil. They have taken everything, there remains nothing for him to hide in. He stands totally defenseless and stark naked. He is delivered to mankind and revealed. What! That’s your Jesus! He is ridiculous! He is beaten and covered with filth. He belongs with the psychiatrists and the police. “Gross beasts have besieged me. Deliver me, Lord, from the mouth of the dog.” He is not the Christ. He is not the Son of Man. He is not God. His teachings are false and his Father is not in heaven. He’s crazy! He’s an imposter! Make him talk! Keep him quiet! Anne’s servant slaps him and Renan kisses him. They took everything. But the scarlet blood remains. They took everything. But the open wound remains! God is hidden. But the man of sorrows remains. God is hidden. My weeping brother remains! From your humiliation Lord, from your shame, take pity on the defeated, on the weak oppressed by the strong! From the horror of that last garment taken from you, take pity on all those who are mutilated! On the child, operated on three times, encouraged by the doctor, and on the poor invalid whose bandages are changed. On the humiliated husband, on the son beside his dying mother, And on this terrifying love, which must be torn from our heart!
Eleventh Station: Now God is no longer with us. He lies on the ground. The mob has taken him by the throat as dogs take a stag.
So you did come! You are truly among us Lord! You have been sat upon, your heart has been knelt upon. This hand forced by the executioner is the right hand of the Almighty. This Lamb has been tied by the feet, the Omnipresent is bound. His height and span have been marked on the cross. When he feels our nails, we’ll watch his expression.
Eternal Son, limited only by the bounds of Infinity, Marked here among us by that narrow space which you have controlled! Here is this body Elijah stretches out in death, here lies David’s throne and Solomon’s glory, here is the bed of our cruel, powerful passion with You! It is difficult for God to assume our stature. They tug, and the half-dislocated body snaps and cries aloud. Drawn with the tension of a wine press, he is hideously quartered. So the prophecy might be fulfilled that: “They have pierced my hands and feet, they have numbered each of my bones.” You are captured Lord, and can no longer escape. You are nailed on the cross, hand and foot. Like a heretic or a lunatic, I seek nothing more from heaven. This God held by four nails is enough for me.
Twelfth Station: A moment ago he was suffering, it is true, but now he is going to die. The Great Cross sways faintly in the night to the pulse of God’s breathing. Everything is ready. One can only leave the Apparatus alone, to inexhaustibly draw from the bond of man’s double nature, from the hypostatic union of body and soul, all of his inherent potential for suffering. He is all alone as Adam was alone in Eden. For three hours he remains alone and savors the Wine, the unconquerable ignorance of man in the absence of God! Our guest grows weary and his forehead slowly droops. He no longer sees his Mother, and his Father abandons him. He tastes the cup, and the death, which slowly poisons him. Have You not had enough of this bitter wine diluted with water, to cause You to suddenly straighten up and cry: “I thirst”? Are You thirsty Lord? Are You talking to me? Do You still need me and my sins? Am I needed so that all may be consummated?
Thirteenth Station: Here the Passion ends and the Compassion continues. Christ is no longer on the Cross. He is with Mary, who has received him; as she accepted him in prophecy, she receives him consummated. Christ, who suffered before all, is again cradled at his Mother’s breast. The Church forever embraces and watches over her beloved. That from God, that from the Mother, and that which man has done, all of this is with her forever under her habit. She has taken him in; she sees, touches, prays, weeps, and admires; she is the winding sheet and the ointment, the sepulcher and the incense. Here ends the Cross and begins the Tabernacle.
Fourteenth Station: The tomb where Christ is put, having suffered and died, the hole hastily unsealed so that he might spend his night there, before the crucified revived and ascended to the Father, this is not merely a new tomb, it is my flesh, it is man, your creature, more profound than the earth! Now that his heart is open and his hands are pierced, there is no cross among us on which his body will not fit, there is no sin in us to which his wound will not correspond. So come to us, from the altar where you are hidden, Redeemer of the World!Lord, your creature is rent open and how profound he is!
Music: “The Stations of the Cross” (Le Chemin de la Croix) by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) and performed by organist, Ken Cowan.
I. Jesus is condemned to death. Opening with a trumpet solo evoking Pilate’s command, “Gardes, saisissez-vous de cet homme,” (“guards, seize this man”) the music becomes increasingly tumultuous, depicting an agitated crowd shouting for the release of Barrabas, and for Jesus to be put to death. The theme for “Barrabas” is the rhythm of the name, (if pronounced BAR-ra-bas) played on trumpet stops. The crushing two-note climax, “To death,” which precipitates the quick dispersal of the mob, is heard again in station XII.
II. Jesus receives His cross. The March to Calvary begins, and the melodic theme of the Cross is heard repeatedly on reed registers; the stumbling steps of Jesus are illustrated in the accompaniment.
III. Jesus falls for the first time. The march continues. Labored sounding two-note groups describe Jesus’ weariness. The theme for Suffering is heard high in the treble. Finally Jesus’ strength fails and He falls under the weight of the cross. In the last few bars, the theme of Redemption is heard for the first time, pianissimo.
IV. Jesus meets His mother. A flute solo with string tone accompaniment depicts the Mater Dolorosa. The rather chromatic harmonies of the accompaniment might suggest her emotional turmoil. The same music will be heard again in Station XIII as she receives her son’s lifeless body. The theme of Agony is heard because Mary’s suffering is great.
V. Simon the Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross. Dupré evokes here a completely different atmosphere-we are in the countryside. The piece opens with pastoral sounding music played on flute stops. Simon, on his way into the city from the countryside, lends reluctant assistance bearing the cross, and does not find it easy at first. He is first depicted clumsily helping Jesus carry the cross and trying to get into step as the procession moves. A series of canons between the outside parts depict Simon’s attempts to assist. Finally the Cross theme is heard united over a range of two octaves, above and below the accompaniment. Finally he has synchronized his steps with those of Jesus. The Cross theme is inverted, and near the end there is a brief appearance of the Redemption motif.
VI. Jesus and Veronica. Veronica comes out of the crowd to wipe Jesus’ brow with a cloth, evoking the melodic theme of Compassion. The theme of the Cross is heard in the bass as Jesus pauses for a moment. As the movement ends the Redemption motif is heard again, beautifully harmonized.
VII. Jesus falls a second time. This station begins in the same slow, march-like rhythm heard at the beginning of the third station, but the accompaniment soon becomes more agitated. This is a more grotesque event than the first fall, and the horror of the scene is matched with ever more grinding dissonance.
VIII. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem. There are some women present who feel pity for Jesus, and the theme of Pity is a beautiful cantilena which pervades the entire movement, and will be heard again in Station XIV. The theme for Consolation is heard in the tenor register played on a reed stop, representing Jesus’ voice.
IX. Jesus falls a third time. The crowd, now exasperated by the slow pace of the procession, fervently clamors for blood, and shouts insults. The principal theme here is Persecution- three repeated notes followed by an ascending diminished triad. A busy chromatic accompaniment recalls a frenzied crowd. The third and final fall is sudden and devastating, but now the place of execution, Calvary has finally been reached, and a brief period of calm follows before the final indignities are inflicted.
X. Jesus is stripped of His clothes. The executioners strip Jesus of His clothes, and throw dice for His seamless coat. Dupré accompanies this scene with a rhythmic, sinister sounding piece played staccato on string stops. After a pause there follows the music of the Incarnation as if to remind the listener that for this purpose Jesus had come into the world. Jesus awaits His end, a pitiable figure indeed.
XI. Jesus is nailed on the Cross. Hammering fortissimo chords expressing the violent cruelty of the executioners become the theme of Crucifixion. The theme for Suffering (from Station III) is combined in longer phrases. The repetitive pedal line is an extension of the Cross motif, inverted.
XII. Jesus dies upon the Cross. The agony of the slow passing hours is represented with a still sounding introduction containing a theme similar to that of Redemption. The dying Jesus speaks His seven last words. A sudden and violent crescendo by the organ represents the earthquake, and the rending of the veil of the temple. Jesus has been put to death. An uneasy stillness follows the final tremors.
XIII. Jesus’ body is taken from the cross and laid in Mary’s bosom. A fluid and unsettled sounding arabesque on flute stops evoking the whirling of ropes accompanies the descent from the cross and the slow sliding movements by which the body is brought down. The theme of the now-accomplished Redemption is present. Mary’s music from Station IV is heard again at the end of this meditation as she holds the body of Jesus in her arms.
XIV. The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb. Pity, the theme of the eighth station, is the dominant theme of the cortege preceding Jesus’ entombment. The theme of Suffering also accounts for a large portion of this final scene. The epilogue contains some subtle musical inspiration. A heavenly stillness envelops the scene. The theme of Suffering, is now transformed into the Fruits of the Redemption. Flute melodies played high above illustrate the gates of heaven opening to those who participated in the events of that first Good Friday. As pointed out by Marcel Dupré’s biographer Graham Steed, the last two notes of the flute melody in the final station, G# and B natural are the same two notes, enharmonically changed and inverted that began the first station. The work ends as if to say “As for the way of the wicked, he turneth it upside down.”
Following are eighteen themes or leit-motifs employed by Dupré in this work. Twelve are melodic and six are rhythmic.
- The Cross (Stations II, V, VI, XI): Two (sometimes three) ascending or descending leaps of perfect fourths, preceded and followed by a major second, rising or falling as the case may be.
- Suffering (Stations III, IX, XIV): A conjunct, descending triplet within the interval of a diminished fifth.
- Redemption (Stations III, IV, V, VI, XIII): An ascending group of four stepwise notes.
- Mary (Stations IV, XII): A descending major triad.
- Compassion (Station VI): Two disjunct intervals of the third, the second repeated.
- Pity (Stations VIII, XIV): An ascending group of four notes, preceded and followed by a dotted-note figure of repeated notes.
- Consolation (Stations VIII, XII): A perfect fifth, ascending, the second note dotted; drop of a fourth, rising to the major third, sounded on a reed stop.
- Persecution (Station IX): Three repeated notes followed by an ascending diminished triad.
- Incarnation (final section of Station X): Minor thirds ascending, 2 by 2 with repetition of each second note, the repetition conveying the idea of suffering accepted.
- Crucifixion (Station XI): The Cross motif inverted, and extended to a third downward jump of a perfect fourth.
- Agony: Similar to Redemption theme, with the second note dotted, and with a fifth note added to the upward progression.
- The Fruits of Redemption (Station XIV): Suffering theme altered, the theme rising instead of falling.
- The Crowd (Station I): Intervals of major and minor thirds and fourths rising chromatically by semitones.
- Barrabas (Station I): The rhythm of the name. (pronounced BAR-ra-bas)
- Stumbling Steps or Jostling (Station II): Iambic short note on the beat followed by a dotted note.
- Weariness (Stations III, VII, IX): Descending seconds, with repetition of the second note, suffering accepted.
- Flagellation (Station X): Pairs of triplets made up of a descending fourth followed by a rising seventh, the second triplet starting on the last note of the first.
- The Ropes (Station XIII): Four groups of triplets in a sliding chromatic outline.
Ken Cowan is one of North America’s finest concert organists. Praised for his dazzling artistry, impeccable technique and imaginative programming by audiences and critics alike, he maintains a rigorous performing schedule which takes him to major concert venues and churches in America, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Recent feature performances have included appearances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa California, Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, Spivey Hall, and Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as concerts in Germany and Korea. In addition, Mr. Cowan has been a featured artist in recent years at the national conventions of the American Guild of Organists held in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, has performed at many regional conventions of the AGO, and has been featured at several conventions of the Organ Historical Society and the Royal Canadian College of Organists.
Ken received the Master’s degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music/Institute of Sacred Music, studying organ with Thomas Murray. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied with John Weaver. His major teacher during high school years was James Bigham, Organist/Choirmaster at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Buffalo, NY, which is not far from his hometown Thorold, Ontario, Canada.
In 2012 Mr. Cowan joined the keyboard faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University as Associate Professor and head of the organ program. Previous positions have included Associate Professor of Organ at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ, where he was awarded the 2008 Rider University Distinguished Teaching Award, and Associate Organist and Artist in Residence at Saint Bartholomew’s Church in New York City
The Rev. Alison L. Boden, Ph.D. has served as Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel at Princeton University since August 2007. Dean Boden is the author of numerous articles and chapters on religion and social justice in addition to a book, Women’s Rights and Religious Practice (Palgrave 2007). Her course offerings have included such topics as religion and human rights, the rights of women, the history and phenomenology of prayer, and religion and violence. She has served in an advisory capacity to a variety of non-governmental organizations and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.