Remember Me: Reflections on the Passion
In May of 2022, the ThinkND community virtually traveled to Jerusalem with the Notre Dame Folk Choir to record a completely original and newly composed setting of the biblical passion story. The Passion is like an old-school radio play: some dialogue, some contemporary choral music, and some singer/songwriter style songs. The 40-track album came out on Ash Wednesday, and the Folk Choir toured a fully-staged production with sixty singers, an eight-piece band, and projection/lighting design along the East Coast during Spring Break in March of 2023. ThinkND invites you to take an exclusive look into what it was like for the students who collaborated on and perform in The Passion, alongside the custom artwork created for the 2023 FaithND Lenten series Remember Me: Reflections on The Passion with the Notre Dame Folk Choir.
Join ThinkND and the Notre Dame Folk Choir to experience the full- length fully-staged production of The Passion, depicting the disciples on Holy Saturday as they retell the events of Jesus’s last days, from the anointing at Bethany to Golgotha, in s a special live stream from the South Quad of the University of Notre Dame on Good Friday 2023.
The Passion: Full Length Lyric Video
Recorded in Jerusalem during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, The Passion invites listeners to follow in Jesus’s footsteps from Galilee to Golgotha. The 40-track album, produced by acclaimed singer/songwriter and three-time Grammy-award winning producer Joe Henry, immerses listeners in the experience of Jesus’s disciples on Holy Saturday.
Over the course of the past 8 months, students and alumni of the Folk Choir worked collaboratively with video and projection designer, Ryan Belock ‘11, to create a full-length Lyric Video and projections for the live performances. Click the video above to view their stunningly beautiful work, which we hope helps you enter more deeply into the Passion and the Lenten season.
Video by Ryan Belock Instagram: @belockdesign @RyanBelock
Passion Stories: The Students of the Notre Dame Folk Choir
The students of the Notre Dame Folk Choir partnered with FaithND for the 2023 Lenten series Remember Me: Reflections on The Passion with the Notre Dame Folk Choir to offer their faith reflections on moments of The Passion music and lyrics that were especially inspirational to each of them. Here, ThinkND is pleased to share an exclusive look at what it was like to collaborate on and perform The Passion here on campus and all over the world, along with custom created artwork inspired by the choir’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land to record The Passion in May 2022.
The students answered these questions just before the beginning of Lent 2023 : What has your experience of performing The Passion been like, or if this Lent will be your first time, what are you looking forward to? If you were involved in the planning stages of The Passion, what memories do you have from those days?
My first performance of The Passion was in May of 2021, when we presented our rough draft of the piece to a small audience in the Basilica. We were so proud of our work-in-progress, and we had little idea of where the project might take us next. Performing the piece as it has continued to evolve has been surreal – sometimes, I have to remind myself that there was a version of The Passion before this one, and before the one before that. And, on top of this reminder, I still have a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that we created it together. The Passion is a beautiful mish-mash of individual and collective memories that have built up, over time, into a work of art that reflects our community. There is truly nothing I have ever performed that has felt more special. When I joined the choir as a first year, I signed up for the ‘Poetry Committee’ with limited context – all I knew was that I loved choir and that I liked poetry. I soon found myself diving head first into the creation of The Passion. Throughout our work on the project over the next two years, I learned the value of taking things slowly in the midst of my fast-paced college life. Sometimes, our Zoom meetings would consist of a singular conversation about how the Footwashing scene could potentially encapsulate the sound of running water. Other times, we would have a conceptual breakthrough and still only end up producing a handful of lines after an hour. Yet, this was the beauty of the process. I have loved every minute of talking about, writing about, and singing this piece because we poured our hearts into it with all the honesty and patience we could muster. – Meg Beuter ’24
I play the cello in our Passion performances. On our East Coast tour last March, we performed in churches and had to be creative with our set up, so I often faced the choir and had a clear view of the lead characters. I witnessed my friends as the disciples, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of God, weeping at the foot of the cross, grappling with the guilt of denying Jesus, and mourning the loss of their friend. People that had always felt like strangers to me, became fully human and relatable. I also had the privilege of writing the cello and violin arrangements for a couple of The Passion songs, including Memory song. The process of working with the musicians who composed The Passion truly changed the way that I think about music. There are many great music mentors and musicians I look up to in my life, but at Notre Dame for the first time I witnessed incredible musicians writing with their faith as their driving force. It really opened my eyes to what is possible. Basically, before Notre Dame and working with JJ and Ike Sturm, I viewed my future music career as something that would be kept separate from my faith. Yet, I now understand (by the example of JJ and Ike) that even when I am creating something that is not outwardly spiritual or religious, there is always a spiritual purpose to my music. It’s as if something much deeper— this purpose grounded in faith— is unlocked in my approach to creating music. After a discovery is made, Ike often dramatically asks, “What’s possible now?” After working on The Passion project, with my whole life and music career ahead of me, I feel immense hope and joy at the thought of “What is possible now?” – Aubrey Breen ’25
I joined Folk Choir my freshman year, just as the majority of the writing of The Passion had been completed. Therefore, although I missed the writing and composing period of The Passion, I was included in some of the first full run throughs where we made small shifts and truly allowed the piece to come alive. I distinctly remember the Fall Retreat over my freshman Fall break where we performed the first act all the way through for the first time. It was difficult to pick it up in only a few days, but the music was so beautiful and I felt like it was already beginning to become “mine.” Fall retreat was also when I started to get to know my fellow choristers better, especially the upper classmen as I was one of only two freshmen who attended the retreat. It is incredible to see how far The Passion has come, and I cannot wait to see how it may continue to grow and change in the future. – Clare Cullinan ’25
Performing The Passion has become a big part of my spiritual life in college. Singing this piece and allowing it to envelop me caused me to yearn more deeply to know God. It opened up new parts of my faith life and pushed me to think more fully about what it means for Christ to have died on the cross for us. We were able to share this project with parishes along the east coast last year on tour, and it always surprised me how deeply audiences seemed to fall into the performance. During a performance, it seems like time suspends a little bit and the choir, band, and audience all become a unit reliving the most important moment in all of history over and over. – Noelle Dorvault ’25
My experience performing The Passion has been a true blessing. I joined the choir in the Fall of 2021, and got to perform the first half of The Passion, before the second half was ever written, over fall break to a small crowd in South Bend. From there I got to perform it all over the East Coast, in the Basilica to a packed house, and then numerous times in a recording booth in Jerusalem. I have fond memories of every performance. I have wept time and time again when Veronica sings her song, when Mary cries for Jesus, and when Jesus cries out for God the Father. Many times I have felt the power of the Peter scene as 50 voices vocalize Peter’s fears. Many times I have also felt the warmth of the choir as we sing together of the table being set at Bethany. I also have memories of the little things in rehearsals that united us as we went on this journey together. This piece is a special one, and it is near and dear to my heart. – Noah Gonring ’23
The experience of performing The Passion has been a remarkably emotional one for me. I remember the first time we performed the whole thing about a year ago, and there were so many moments which tugged at my heart and where there were even tears. Even now after singing it so many times and recording it in a studio there is always a moment that hits me, and an idea that had never occurred to me previously. When I was first introduced to it, it seemed odd to me, and I think that is always my experience for the first few scenes whenever we perform it, but always by the end I’ve been immersed into an experience that may even be considered a prayer. – Nolan Kyhl ’25
This will be my second year of performing The Passion. This year, I was given the honor of playing Mary the Mother of God, which has prompted a lot of reflection on how this woman filled with such grace might have handled the Death of her son. In addition to this, I have been involved as a sort of assistant to Tristan Cooley, the associate director, which essentially consists of helping Tristan with logistical elements, overseeing lines-reading sessions, proposing alternate interpretations / personifications of a particular character, and routinely checking in with the cast. – Caroline Lavender ’23
I was involved with writing poetry for The Passion, specifically the crucifixion scene. Two years ago, in 2021, when we were in the stages of finalizing text, I woke up on Easter Sunday with such a profound and deep joy, one I had never fully experienced on Easter. And I realized that that very joy at Christ’s rising had manifested by allowing myself to fully feel the pain and sorrow of His dying. I truly hope that’s what The Passion can be for all of the listeners, as well. – Hannah Tonsor ’23
The watercolor paintings above were created by Notre Dame Art History major and Folk Choir member Marie Latham. Marie is also minoring in Italian, Business & Economics, and Digital Marketing, and looks forward to postgraduate study at Tyler School of Art, where she will pursue a Master’s degree in Art History concentrating in Arts Administration. In her research, she investigates how artists respond to their geographic realities, especially in areas of diaspora. In her free time, you can find her singing with the Folk Choir, practicing the electric bass guitar, or working on graphic design projects.
Paintings used courtesy of the artist.
A Passion Pilgrimage through Photographs
Enjoy this gallery of photographs taken by freelance husband and wife team Joshua and Ivony Martin, who accompanied the Notre Dame Folk Choir on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land to record The Passion in May 2022.
View the Event
Friday, April 7, 2023 8:30 pm
Join the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir on Good Friday for their performance of The Passion, an original musical setting of the events of Christ’s passion. This 95-minute, fully-staged production depicts the disciples on Holy Saturday as they retell the events of Jesus’s last days, from the anointing at Bethany to Golgotha. This performance was recorded on Good Friday 2023 on the South Quad of the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
The Passion was written as a collaboration among students in the Folk Choir and professional artists over two years of discernment, retreat, and workshop. In May 2022, as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Folk Choir recorded The Passion live at the Jerusalem Music Center. CDs are available for purchase here.View Event