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Issue:- 28 March 2013

This is Our Story
Photos with thanks to Liverpool Cathedral

ON Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings during Holy Week (25 March, 26 March and 27 March 2013), Liverpool Cathedral was the scene of a very poignant portrayal of Christ's Passion, in a set of three plays. These passion plays, subtitled 'This is Our Story', were produced by the Overcrofters, Liverpool Cathedral's youth group. The cast comprised volunteers, members of the choir and clergy, including some very senior ones who played Jesus' disciples in Tuesday's session. The congregation were also involved at times. The plays were skilfully written by Daniel Bishop, Associate Organist at the Cathedral, and Mark Lovelady, who is Head of English at Glenburn Sports College, Skelmersdale and also a member of Holy Trinity, Southport's, choir. He has various other roles within the Cathedral too, including being Youth Leader of the Overcrofters. The original music was written by Daniel Bishop, Phil Glenny, Ian Tracey and Nicholas Tudor.

Mark said:- "As a teacher I am very aware that young people receive confusing messages about life. They see imagery of violence, pain and disease every single day. The Passion story is an unchangeable truth. Even young people who don't feel a connection to established religion can understand the themes explored in the play such as love, life, death, betrayal, kindness, resentment and envy. It's a story of a man who believed in something more than the world he lived in. Through a gentle wisdom, he wanted to bring hope to people. I've thoroughly enjoyed working on the Passion Play. Working with a dedicated group of young people shows that this story really is still relevant in the 21st Century!"

Dan added:- "The Liverpool Passion Plays are a reflection of the faith of our young people, the Overcrofters, who have researched and helped write and produce the script to an extremely high standard. That is why we are using the words, 'This is our story'; Christ's Passion is everyone's story, and these plays are a chance to experience being part of the crowd that welcomes Christ into Jerusalem, that witnesses his crucifixion and that gains a sense of hope from his resurrection. It will be a very visceral performance that also feeds off the audience and draws them in to the action at close range. The tone has been very carefully considered for each performance and the music, script and words from the liturgy are being carefully worked together to make links between Christ's suffering and resurrection and what that means for us today."

Throughout, the plays thoughtfully portrayed short scenes which gave an insight into Jesus' life including things which led up to the Last Supper, His Trial and Crucifixion. Then the story was extended to beyond, in a very moving scene involving his mourning mother, Mary, perceiving Hope for the future in his life and death on the cross. The plays were enacted at various settings across the Cathedral space, with the congregation following Jesus around to each scene and becoming involved with the action. The dialogue was clear, well articulated and suited to the wide age range of the cast. The youngsters were obviously very passionate about the theme, and props were minimal and very effective: all this helped these plays to be so meaningful and thought provoking. As to be expected, the Wednesday re-enactment of the Crucifixion was very emotive, and the organ came into its own in setting the scene, as the congregation faced Christ's suffering, anguish and death, leaving the congregation pondered its significance both then and also what it means in our lives today:- 'Our Story'.

Monday and Tuesday's congregations were around 250 to 300 each night and Wednesday's was higher. It was a very inspiring
start to Easter for all.

The Dean of Liverpool The Very Revd. Dr Pete Wilcox said:- "I felt so proud, not just that we have the resources to achieve such powerful drama pretty much entirely within a home team, but that the contributors have done so freely, so that the audience could come and see the plays for free. Right at the heart of the Christian faith lies the conviction that our salvation is to be found in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Remembering those events is what Holy Week is about, and these plays have provided a fresh and powerful way for us to look again at the gospels and to tell each other 'This is our story'. The Cathedral Chapter were honoured to have been asked to take on the role of the disciples - it is our privilege to lead and help others grow in their own discipleship, and we also wanted to recognise the work put in by everyone involved, especially the Cathedral youth group The Overcrofters, who produced the plays. The Last Supper scene also has a strong resonance for the Cathedral with the launch of the Hope Foodbank last week. We are delighted by the response to the plays and I think that this could be the start of a tradition. The Liverpool Passion Plays have the subtitle 'This is Our Story', and this has been true in both planning and the performance. It really has been a shared experience. The actors and crew, musicians, the regular congregation and those visiting just for the plays have moved together as one around the spaces of the Cathedral and even become part of some very moving scenes."

For times and details of Liverpool Cathedral Services and other information like the Liverpool Cathedral's Youth Group, The Overcrofters click on here.

There will also be an organ recital at the Cathedral on Easter Monday, 1 April, at 11.15am. Given on this magnificent organ by the renowned Professor Ian Tracey, it is, as usual, sure to be a thrilling performance.

General information about passion plays, kindly supplied by Liverpool Cathedral About Passion Plays Passion Plays have their roots in the Quem Quaeritis (whom do you seek?) Easter liturgy, the Visitatio Sepulchri (visit to the tomb) liturgical dramas and the medieval mystery cycle plays. The Quem Quaeritis tradition comes from the tenth century, when church choirs would re-enact through song the conversation between the three Marys and the angel at Christ's tomb on Easter Sunday.

Mystery plays were originally performed on the streets on the feast of Corpus Christi (the feast of the Body of Christ) and depicted the whole of salvation history up to the last judgement. York and Chester have surviving mystery cycles which are still performed today.

Mystery plays were performed and produced by guilds or other groups in the local community. The Liverpool Passion Plays are bringing together the traditions of both church drama and the mystery plays in that they are being produced by the Overcrofters, the Cathedral's own youth group, in collaboration with the Cathedral's music department. The cast will be made up of the Overcrofters and members of the Cathedral congregation, and the plays will feature the refrain, 'This is our story' to reflect this important community aspect.   The performances also include new music specially composed for parts of the story.

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