Olivet to Calvary - John Henry Maunder (1858 - 1920)


John Henry Maunder studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and served as organist in several London churches, including St Matthew's, Syndenham and St Paul's, Forest Hill. Maunder started his career as a theatre composer during which time he wrote the operetta 'Daisy Dingle'. He later devoted himself exclusively to sacred music. While his oratorio 'The Martyrs' became a perennial favourite it is 'Olivet to Calvary' which has retained its popularity and appeal through the generations.


The work is a fine example of music written for the late Victorian/early Edwardian Anglican church.  Considered by some to be over sentimental by modern tastes, it contains a sincerity and dedication which, despite being a definite product of its time, has carried the piece through to the modern era. Its popularity is in part due to its simplicity, needing only organ, choir, bass and tenor soloists, it is a work which can be performed by the smallest choirs.    


Described as a sacred cantata, 'Olivet to Calvary' recalls the scenes which mark the last few days of Christ's life on earth.Part 1 starts with Christ's jubilant journey to Jerusalem and ends with the scene on the Mount of Olives. Part 2 begins with the Feast of Passover with Christ's commandment to his disciples to 'Love one Another' and end with the Crucifixion at Calvary. It is interspersed with congregational hymns which reflect on the scenes .

While a slight and somewhat outdated work 'Olivet to Calvary', like Stainer's more substantial 'Crucifixion', rewards sincere performance.

Phillip Tolley

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