John Middleton - Blog

Programme notes for the St John Passion performance

St John Passion Programme


This work is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Rev. John Walker, a former curate at Loughborough Emmanuel Church and a member of the folk duo ‘Crossbones’; also to my parents, Henry who was a decent tenor amongst his other qualities, and Nora who didn’t sing, but was a fantastic mother and example to all the family.

Composer’s statement

Although I wrote songs for guitar in my teens and twenties, my career as a composer was interrupted by going to medical school, followed by 36 years of service in the NHS. I always had music in my head, but it began increasingly to demand attention in the 10 years before retirement. During that time, I wrote an opera Ivanhoe which was performed in Loughborough in June 2011, this oratorio, and the Bird Symphony (used as the theme for the ‘Art space’ exhibition, ‘Birdsong’ also in 2011). You can find links to my recordings and scores, as well as more information about my work as a composer at

St John Passion

St John’s Gospel, from the Lazarus episode (chapter 11) onwards, has fascinated me for a long time. I approach it from the viewpoint of a believer, but I am very aware that many people do not believe in God, or may not accept that Jesus is God made man. Whether or not you are a believer, it is impossible to understand the concept of being man and God at the same time. From where I stand, ‘to share in our humanity’ means partaking of the human condition of uncertainty. There are indications of this tension in John’s gospel, for example in the lead up to the raising of Lazarus and the mental conflict of Jesus at Gethsemane. I have tried to imagine the tension and portray it in the music.

The second strand of inspiration comes from my period as a folk singer in the eighties. I used to be half of a duo called ‘Crossbones’. The other half was the Rev John Walker, who was curate at Loughborough Emmanuel Church before moving to Nottingham as a parish priest. Our repertoire included the folk/gospel song ‘I am the Resurrection’, by Ray Repp. John died prematurely, but the theme of the song became central to my composition, culminating in the final chorus.

The work is in three sections, a prologue ( including the raising of Lazarus) and an epilogue (post-resurrection appearances) surrounding the traditional passion.

Anyone who writes a Passion oratorio is unlikely to be compared favourably with J S Bach However, my St John Passion is not based on a series of set-piece arias and choruses, but is through-written continuous recitative as in a Wagnerian opera. I have tried to juxtapose, combine and transform fragments of the themes in a symphonic process. At times, the thoughts of Jesus are externalized to voices in the choir.

The tension inherent in my interpretation of John’s gospel is manifested by frequent changes of key and tempo, dissonance within a basically tonal structure, and an episode of atonality in the Gethsemane section. People say that my music is modal and uses pentatonic scales. This is probably because my sound world is steeped in folk, blues, jazz and church music. I am not especially preoccupied with the dichotomy between major and minor. Indeed, I find minor scales and modes quite beautiful and often joyful.

My distillation of this gospel uses some artistic license, particularly in Gethsemane, which John does not describe. Instead, I have used preceding chapters 15 and 16, imagining the words of Jesus to his disciples coming back at him whilst he is alone. Elsewhere, combinations of eight voices (two each of soprano, alto, tenor and bass) are used in a similar way to echo and reflect the words of Jesus. For me, this relates to the idea of a spiritual connection with God and all humankind. Combinations of four voices are used for the dramatic dialogue, whilst the whole vocal ensemble (twelve voices) represents the crowd. There is some telescoping of time, particularly in the crucifixion, which of course took hours not minutes.

The orchestral prelude (4 minutes) uses I am the resurrection as a motto theme, whereas the overture (7 Minutes) deals with most of the other themes in the whole work. Since you will not have the advantage of being able to watch a live orchestra, there will be projected images from many different countries, symbolically linked to the music. In this semi-staged production, the action will be minimal, but I hope that the drama still lives. The paintings, by Erica, are a response to visiting the Stasi Museum in Berlin. Yes, there is suffering, but the human spirit can rise above it. Photography is by both of us – we have forgotten precisely who took which picture.

Order of events

Short introduction by the composer

‘I am the Resurrection’ by Ray Repp (arr. John Middleton) – recording performed by Crossbones in the 80’s



Prelude (virtual orchestra)

Lazarus (the first resurrection)

Palms (triumphant arrival and reaction of the authorities)

INTERVAL (15 mins)


Overture (virtual orchestra)

Passover (the last supper)

Gethsemane (spiritual agony in the garden)

Arrest (and trial)

Golgotha (virtual orchestra)

It is finished (last words on the cross; earthquake by virtual orchestra)

1 minute silence

SHORT INTERVAL (you can cough now)


Gardener (Mary Magdalen and mistaken identity – see cover image)

Thomas (convinced by concrete evidence)

Fishing (breakfast by the lake and finale)



The Ivanhoe Festival Singers:

Jesus – Lyndon Gardner


Martha, the sister of Lazarus – Clare Proctor


Mary, the other sister; The Maid – Kathryn Greenlee


Mary Magdalen – Irene Goodrich


Pontius Pilate – Adrian Dobson


Peter – John Bassford


Judas Iscariot; The other Judas – Martin Vindelis


Thomas – David Henshaw


John – Barry Smith


Soldier – Gerry Brennan


The voice of God; Caiaphas – Stephen Foster


SOPRANOS             Clare Proctor

                                    Kathryn Greenlee

                                    Rebekah Broad


ALTOS                       Irene Goodrich

                                    Helen Shacklock                                                                 Cathryn Vindelis


TENORS                   Lyndon Gardner

Adrian Dobson

John Bassford

Martin Vindelis


BASSES                    David Henshaw

                                    Barry Smith

                                    Gerry Brennan

Stephen Foster



The Ivanhoe Festival Ensemble:


Clarinet – Bob Greenleas

Cello – Chris Dunn

MIDI keyboard – Chris Hill


Music Director – Kate King


Virtual orchestra engineer – John Middleton

Vocal Advisor – Lyndon Gardner

Repetiteur – Kate King

Recording Engineer – David Concannon

Cover Design – Erica Middleton and Susan West

                        Projected Images – John and Erica Middleton

Paintings – Erica Middleton



Meet the singers and Musical Director


Lyndon Gardner – ‘Jesus’

Lyndon is an experienced lyric tenor soloist regularly performing in a wide variety of engagements on the stage, in concerts and Oratorios, who has developed an enviable reputation as an intelligent tenor of genuine quality, with stage presence, musicality and an educated sense of style. He studied music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, gained an A.R.C.M. diploma, made his BBC Radio debut in 1978 and his first performance on television in the 5K Pursuit Opera, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1992. Lyndon has many Oratorio, stage and operatic roles to his credit. Following John Middleton’s opera Ivanhoe this evening´s Saint John Passion is another of Lyndon´s many premieres which have included the first modern performances of Santa Pelagia and Il Mose Legato di Dio, the World Student Premiere of Stravinski’s Les Noces, and World Premieres of The Last Broadcast, and the outdoor interactive operatic instillation Out of the Blue. Future engagements include solo recitals, Nemorino in Donizetti´s The Elixir of Love for Operahouse and the Verdi Requiem.


Clare Proctor – ‘Martha, the sister of Lazarus’

After graduating with a performers’ music degree, Clare worked briefly with Kent Opera and then taught singing in her spare time for several years.  As a soprano soloist, Clare has an extensive oratorio and recital repertoire and a busy concert schedule, but her first love is opera and stage work.  Clare was therefore delighted to have been invited to create the role of “Rebecca” in the premier of Middleton’s Ivanhoe in 2011.  Clare has sung in opera productions since her late teens and now has over forty major principal roles to her credit, having performed with several companies.  These include the title roles in Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Aida as well as roles such as Mimi (La Boheme), Violetta (La Traviata), Queen of the Night, Pamina and First Lady (Magic Flute), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Leila (Pearl Fishers), Amelia & Oscar (A Masked Ball), Marcellina (Fidelio), Adele (Die Fledermaus).  Principal soprano with “Operahouse” who perform operas in a “portable” format, Clare is to repeat the role of “Adina” in their 2013 performance of The Elixir of Love in June.


Kathryn Greenlee – ‘Mary, the sister of Lazarus’ and ‘the Maid’ 

Born in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, Kathryn began piano lessons aged three and has focussed on music ever since.  Having previously enjoyed local choral experiences at sixteen she successfully auditioned for Ulster Youth Choir, and two years later Ulster Youth Chamber Choir.  With these ensembles she has had the opportunity to perform at a range of venues and events including the BBC proms.

Kathryn gained a music degree from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and during her time there took on the title role within the university Gilbert and Sullivan society production of Iolanthe, as well as musically directing ‘The Mikado’ and producing Ruddigore.  She also pursued solo performance in delivering recitals in the Djanogly recital hall and helped to found the University of Nottingham Opera Society.  Kathryn has also led worship for the past three years at the Christian Keswick Convention. 

Since graduating Kathryn has gained a teaching qualification from Nottingham Trent University and is currently employed in a small school just outside of Loughborough.  She very much enjoys helping the young students there find their voice!

In 2012 Kathryn took on the role of the High Priestess in the Operahouse production of Verdi´s Aida and this June will mark her debut in the role of Gianetta in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.


Rebekah Broad - soprano

Rebekah studied music and singing at Clarendon College under the vocal training of Lynne Wayman. She has over 25 years’ experience, and has performed regularly  as a soloist with the Nottingham Harmonic Society and Orchestra da Camera, the East of England singers, the Nottingham University Singers and St Mary’s Choir in the Lace Market, including solo work for BBC Radio 4. She has performed at many venues including the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, Nottingham Cathedral, Nottingham Albert Hall, and Southwell Minster.


Irene Goodrich – ‘Mary Magdalen’

Irene studied singing with Christopher Francis and Thora Kibert. She is well known in Leicester and surrounding area as a solo singer and has won numerous prizes at music festivals in Kettering, Bedford, Northampton, Nottingham and Leicester. Having been a singer since the age of five, her life of solo singing has encompassed a versatile career. Her considerable acting talent has enabled her to perform leading roles in musical comedy, Gilbert and Sullivan, Oratorio and Grand Opera. Amongst her many leading roles are those of Carmen, Azucena (Il Trovatore) and Florence Pike (Albert Herring). Irene still enjoys singing, but now also fulfills her other passion – painting.


Helen Shacklock – soprano (singing alto)

Helen has a  B.Ed (Hons) degree in Education and Music from Birmingham University. She studied singing with Barbara McGuire and Barbara Lowe and has been a member of several choirs in the Midlands including Leicester Philharmonic Choir. She conducts St. Bartholomew’s United Church Choir in Quorn and has sung solos, duets and trios locally. Helen has taught in primary schools in Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Derby City.


Cathryn Vindelis – mezzo soprano

Has had classical vocal training for over 25 years. For the last 6 years she has been studying with Lyndon Gardner (ARCM) in Loughborough. She has extensive experience of choral singing with choirs including the Nottingham Harmonic and St Peters Singers and also solo singing ranging from private bookings such as concerts, fundraising events, weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties to the concert platform and theatres including venues such as the Nottingham Theatre Royal, the Nottingham Albert Hall, The Bonington Theatre and the Concert Hall in Nottingham. Roles include Mama Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana, Nellie in South Pacific & Anita in West Side Story.

Cathryn is a member of Equity and has broadcast on local radio. She has made a couple of classical recordings including a CD of wedding music in association with her husband Martin.  


Adrian Dobson – ‘Pontius Pilate’

Adrian has been performing for over 30 years and has a wide range of experience as an actor, singer, musician and theatre director, much of this in the local area, although he has also been heard in France, Germany and the USA.

He has undertaken a wide variety of lead roles in Musical Theatre and Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, with credits including both The Russian and The American lead roles in Chess, Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Ravenal in Showboat,  Nanki Poo in The Mikado, and Frederic in Pirates Of Penzance.

Following initial training with Lyndon Gardner, his classical experience includes being a soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Stainer’s Crucifixion, Faure’s Requiem and as the Messenger in Verdi’s Aida for Operahouse. He has been part of a number of local choirs and singing groups, including Loughborough Parish Church Choir, Leicester Philharmonic Choir, and Loughborough Male Voice Choir, and was instrumental in the setting up of Charnwood Youth Choir in the 1980s.

Adrian also runs local youth theatre, ACT One, is married and has 3 children. In his spare time he works in financial services!!


John Bassford – ‘Peter’

John has been well known as a local musician for more than 25 years.  A Leicestershire boy, John owes his early musical education to the famous Leicestershire School of Music where he played violin in the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra.  After leaving school, he studied organ and church music at the Royal College of Music.  Active locally as a church musician for many years, he still serves as organist to a number of local organisations and is a regular guest at the organ of local parish churches.  As a singer, John has performed with many local groups and continues to maintain the choir master’s prerogative “to attempt any vocal part but to give no guarantees”.


David Henshaw – ‘Philip’ and ‘Thomas’

David (ATCL) currently sings in a number of choirs and opera companies in the Derby and Loughborough area.  Chairman and Concert Conductor of Charnwood Opera until recently, David has sung leading roles including Germont (Traviata), Belcore (Elixir of Love), Sarastro (Magic Flute), Marcello & Colline (Bohème), Figaro, Escamillo (Carmen), Ramphis (Aida) and Coppelius (Tales of Hoffmann).  David has also sung with New Opera, Derby and has sung major roles in all the G&S operettas with Melbourne. As Resident bass with “operahouse” he has also sung leads in Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Don Giovanni and Aida. He won the Rae Woodlands’ Scholarship to observe at the Britten-Pears School and enjoys solo concert bookings, including Handel’s Messiah at Peterborough Cathedral and most recently Brahms’ Requiem.  Taught by Barbara Lowe and Michael Dewis, he particularly enjoys Flanders & Swann; he sings with the Sitwell Singers and is choirmaster and organist at St. Peter’s, Chellaston.


Barry Smith – ‘John’

Barry began singing as a choirboy in 1960 at St. Martins Church in the Bullring, Birmingham and became resident soloist; subsequently trained at the Royal School of Church Music. In 1969, he won the Birmingham Music Festival ‘best baritone’. He passed the entrance examination for the Royal Academy in London but decided not to pursue singing as a career but instead to enjoy singing as an amateur. In 1985, he joined the Northampton Philharmonic Choir, performing many choral works and singing the bass solo in Faure’s Requiem, Haydn Nelson Mass and Durufle Requiem. Barry spent the past 40 years on the amateur stage taking leads in many shows including Curly in Oklahoma, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Harry Hill in Music Man and many more. Recent activity includes the bass solo in Handel’s Messiah & Messe solennelle de Sainte Cecile in Northampton.


Stephen Foster – ‘The voice of God’; ‘Caiaphas’

Stephen, or to give him his proper title, Revd Canon Dr Stephen Foster holds a degree in music and a doctorate in theology. In the vocal care of John Chapman whilst at university in London, Stephen, a basso profundo, sang for a number of years at ENO as well as at the same time being a regular visitor to both stage and concert hall as a soloist in this country and abroad.  Whilst reading for a second degree in theology and subsequently, within ministry Stephen has been able to maintain his semi-professional singing career, recently singing as near as Melton, Whissendine and Uppingham and as far away as Paris, Prague, Athens and Japan. Major roles in recent years include Sarastro (Magic Flute), Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra), Commendatore (Don Giovanni), Colline (La Boheme) and Truelove (Rake’s Progress) in a very part time post graduate year at the Royal Northern College of Music. He has a number of performances of many kinds booked in the next months both here and abroad.


Gerry Brennan – ‘Soldier’

Yorkshire-born Gerry grew up in a family where everyone seemed to sing, whether in choirs, concerts or the local G & S, and eventually took part in his turn. On moving to the midlands in the 1960s he duly joined the church choir - becoming choirmaster (by default) at St Mary´s R C church, Loughborough in the early 70´s, and going on to do the same at the neighbouring parish of Sacred Heart in the 90´s.   After ten years in the bass line of Loughborough University choir he joined Loughborough Male Voice Choir where from time to time he acts as deputy conductor.  When not singing he enjoys walking, doing crosswords and working part-time in Sainsburys.


Martin Vindelis – ‘Judas Iscariot’ and ‘the other Judas’

Has had classical vocal training for over 25 years. For the last 6 years he has been studying with Lyndon Gardner (ARCM) in Loughborough. He has extensive experience of solo & choral singing ranging from private bookings such as concerts, fundraising events, weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties to the concert platform and theatres including venues such as the Nottingham Theatre Royal, the Nottingham Albert Hall, The Bonington Theatre and the Concert Hall in Nottingham. Roles include The Defendant in Trial by Jury & Tony in West Side Story.

Martin is a member of Equity and has broadcast on local radio. He has made a couple of classical recordings including a CD of wedding music in association with his wife Cathryn. He also has vast performance & recording experience playing Bass & Electric guitar in bands in the UK


Kate King – Musical Director

Born and bred in the East Midlands, Kate {B.Mus(Hons)} studied music at Birmingham University and accompaniment at Birmingham Conservatoire. She studied piano with Beryl Chempin, Double Bass under Tony Morgan and was selected as accompanist to renowned singing teacher Barbara McGuire. She then worked as a specialist music teacher in primary schools. As a Musical Director Kate has wielded the baton for many shows, including the premier of Middleton’s Ivanhoe, and is currently Conductor for Christchurch G&S Society.  She is also in demand as a rehearsal and music examination accompanist and as a keyboard player in theatre orchestras. As a singer she has performed principal roles such as Amneris in Aida along with the title role in Carmen, Suzuki (Madame Butterfly), Flora/Annina (Traviata) and Third Lady (Magic Flute).  She has also taken part in a number of operas and musicals in the area and even performed as a session singer for Barry Manilow on one of his European tours!




The text is freely adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible


I have used the song I am the Resurrection as a main theme, with the kind permission of the composer Ray Repp. His music can be accessed at


Apart from singing the very demanding main role, I am indebted to Lyndon Gardner for his immense support and tireless advocacy


I also want to say thank you to my lovely wife, Erica, for helping me in so many ways with this project.


The instruments of the virtual orchestra are recorded sound patches from the Garritan Library, to be found at:





CD recording of the performance:

Orders may be placed at the Sound Desk after the Performance 

or to express an interest, e-mail “”