There can be few more evocative words in music than passion

munkacsy_golgotaAs well as its familiar English definition, in a musical context it also suggests the commemoration of that most emotive Christian story, the journey of Jesus to the cross. The passions of John and Matthew were the first to gain a place in the liturgical canon: Pope Leo the Great established that they should be presented during Holy Week as early as the 5th century AD. Performances of the passions from this time onwards appear to have developed in much the same way as religious music generally: initially the texts would have been recited or chanted by a single priest, and by the 12th century there is evidence of musical notation being used to determine pitches. Also apparent in the early sources are indications of a sense of drama: many distinguish clearly between passages relating to the Evangelist/narrator, Christ, and the crowd.