The Crucifixion


Robert F Kunkle - Choral Director, Annapolis High School

Robert F. Kunkle, Choral Director for Annapolis High School, in 1959 creatively utilized his mixed choir and 2 women's choirs, plus student soloists from the choirs, to mount 2 performances of The Crucifixion. The choirs' members were from the graduating classes of 1959, 1960 and 1961. He obtained a good tape recorder and microphone, which were used to record the 2 performances of The Crucifixion. The "best of" from those 2 performances were edited together and pressed as a limited release record.

If anyone has the history on how Mr. Kunkle obtained that equipment, that would be great to add!

Mr. Kunkle graduated from The Eastman School of Music and attended the Dusquesne University Music Appreciation - Chorus Orchestra. In addition to being the director of the choral program at Annapolis High School, he also taught music theory.

The Building

In 1959 AHS was located in the building at 801 Chase Street, in what is now known as the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. (Access was from West Street to Amos Garrett to Constitution, to the front of the school on Chase.) That the old high school building is preserved is a testament to those in Annapolis who came together to preserve the old AHS building. It is open to the public to browse its art gallaries. Their website is

Street map from West St to Maryland Hall on Chase St

Maryland Hall has 4 resident companies, one of which is the Annapolis Chorale. (See The Resident Companies of Maryland Hall.) The Chorale's contact form cites room 202. (I wonder if that is the same large room on the 2nd floor where Mr. Kunkle's choruses practiced?)

Maryland Hall can be reached at:

Annapolis Chorale can be contacted at:

About The Crucifixion

Summary History of The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion was published in 1887. The libretto was written by W J Sparrow Simpson. The musical score was written by John Stainer, who modeled its musical structure on the scheme of choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias as used by J.S.Bach in his St Matthew's Passion. Stainer had made the St Matthew's Passion part of St. Paul's Cathedral's London, Holy Week liturgies in 1873. That was within a year of taking up his appointment as organist there. Stainer's The Crucifixion followed Bach's example of giving his soloists a mixture of recitative and reflective arias, while the chorus commented on the action and also took part in it.

How St Matthew's Passion became established in England and thus the model Stainer used for his score for The Crucifixion is an interesting story you can read by opening the window below.

J.S.Bach lived his entire life in North Germany, which is the area where Martin Luther established Lutheranism and which after WWII became part of East Germany. J.S. Bach died in 1750. By 1829 in Germany, when Mendelssohn was only 20, J.S. Bach's works had become popularly unknown. That year Felix Mendelssohn mounted a performance of his shortened version of J.S.Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, to great success. Subsequent performances added back more parts of the Passion getting closer to the original version of J.S.Bach's composition.

Mendelssohn first visited Britain in 1829, the same year he premiered his revival of the St Matthew's Passion in Germany. He returned to Britain in 1832 for what is called his Grand Tour. He returned a number of times afterward, and on a visit in 1842, Mendelssohn spent an evening at the Palace accompanying the 23-year-old Queen Victoria in songs composed by himself and his sister Fanny. After which, Victoria gave him two themes on which he extemporized.

Mendelssohn continued to be based in Germany, where in 1843 he helped set up the Leipzig Conservatory (where in July 1847 American hymnist William Batchelder Bradbury departed for Europe to study under Mendelssohn. Unfortunately for Bradbury, Mendelssohn died in November that year (age 38). That was shorthly after his sister Fanny died in May 1847. Perhaps Mendelssohn's greatest musical success came in 1846, the year before his death, in Birmingham, England. That was with the premiere of his oratorio Elijah.

He was quite overwhelmed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the audience that night: "No work of mine ever went so admirably at its first performance," he reported, "nor was received with such enthusiasm by both the musicians and the audience alike as this oratorio. No fewer than four choruses and four arias were encored!"

Although he died the following year in 1847, his influence in England held strong throughout the century, exerting a dominate influence on the entire British school of composers. Mendelssohn loved England from the moment he first arrived in London in 1829. His popularity in England contributed to them also embracing Mendelssohn's revival of J.S.Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. How pervasive that influence was is illustrated by Stainer in 1873 making the St. Matthew's Passion part of St. Paul's Cathederal's Holy Week festivities. With that in mind, it is not surprising that in 1887 when Stainer wrote and published The Crucifixion, he used the well established model in England of Bach's St Matthew's Passion.

The continuing popularity of J.S.Bach in England led to Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965) hearing a rehearsal by the Bach Choir of London in 1920. She decided she really liked that music, and proceeded to popularize what she titled "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.".

She began including a piano arrangement of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" as an encore number to her performances. (It is included as song 18 on the companion recordings as part of the Hymns and Songs project. See Hymns and Songs Playlist.) Dame Hess was persuaded to write down and publish her piano transcription in 1926 for piano solo and in 1934 for two pianos, i.e., a piano duet.

Both the literary quality of the libretto and the musical quality of The Crucifixion have been attacked by some. However, it is worthwhile understanding, Stainer’s goal was modest. Namely, to provide an extended Passiontide (Easter season) meditation, which ordinary Parish choirs in Britain could perform and to which congregations could immediately relate. That goal is also why his score for The Crucifixion only contains pipe organ accompaniment. Stainer's success at meeting that goal is clear, as testified to by the enduring popularity of The Crucifixion.

Stainer's concept of only using simple pipe organ scoring for The Crucifixion was in contrast with many orchestrated oratorios, including Mendelssohn's Elijah. They had essentially become concert pieces requiring more expansive and professional choirs and an orchestra.

Note. The performance by the AHS choirs in 1959 was only 72 years after The Crucifixion was written. Even now, Stainer's setting of "God so loved the world", continues to be performed as an anthem by many churches in its own right.

Many still enjoy the palpable sense of ritual, which folklore status has given to The Crucifixion. For such reasons, including the character of music and text, even in 2022, 135 years after it was first performed, few towns in Britain are likely to find themselves in Holy Week without any local performance of Stainer’s The Crucifixion.

New Accompaniment Scorings

For those that consider The Curcifixion to be unworthy of attention, it is interesting to note that in addition to the observation that this work is a perennial Holy Week favorite, there have been at least two orchestrations produced for this work since the turn of this century.

First in 2001 the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Borough of Guildford, Surrey, England, commissioned Barry Rose to create an orchestral score for The Crucifixion. Mr. Ross' orchestration was published in 2001 and the first performance took place in Guildford Cathedral on March 31, 2001, the centenary of Stainer’s death. Subsequently, a recording was made in Guildford Cathedral, (recording dates of January 8, 9 and 13 of 2003) and released April 14, 2003. A reviewer of that recording thought the new orchestration is nicely conceived to fit with the character of the choral. That review can be found at (unsecure) New Orchestrated version by Barry Ross.

Second, Craig Hawkins' created an arrangement of the work for woodwinds, strings and timpani that had a USA premiere in New York in 2004, and the UK (Norwich, 2010).

Adaptation for Annapolis High School Choirs

Using the original score for organ accompaniment (AHS in 1959 had a Hammond organ in the auditorium) Mr. Kunkle adapted performance of the parts of this work to fit his choirs. The mixed chorus sang the parts written for mixed chorus. The two women's choruses sang some of the parts written for recitatives. He parceled the remaining solos out to student solists from the choirs who were named on the record.

(Note. My vague recollection is Mr. Kunkle may have augmented some additional harmony parts, in addition to those of Stainer's, for what was sung by the women's choruses for the recitative parts. — Will verify during the mastering process.)

Creation of Recording

There were two performances, which were recorded in monaural. One was for the students during the day, and the other was for the community, performed in the evening.

Neither Mr. Kunkle nor others involved in assisting with getting the 2 recordings edited together had any knowledge when this project was undertaken about the technical processes required in 1959 for making a recording.

Further, it was not until after recording the performances that the idea of having a record made came into being. So, no professionally knowledgeable persons about the recordmaking process in the 1959 era of the industry were consulted upfront for planning management of the tapings of the performances.

The process of creating a good recording in 1959 did not have the flexibilities that digital mastering has more recently added to the process. As a result, the two performances and a patch addition were recorded at different gain/loudness levels and in different acoustic environments.

What was known was the industy practice edit/spliced together the best-of-performances, which was carried out. Unfortunately, that meant the resulting spliced together tape of best-of-performances was louder and softer throughout the recording, depending on which performance part was spliced in as the best.

The editor at AHS of the "best-of" tape become aware of the volume level differences in that edited "best of" tape and prepared a detailed set of instructions with exact timings where the recording volume levels needed to be adjusted to equalize them.

The record company that pressed the record (Century Record Co) was only founded the year before, in 1958, and focused on the music education market. In the 1959 analogue tape era, mastering was not widely practiced. Century Record pressed the record as received without providing any value added services, i.e., they pressed the record from the tape received.

A search of the internet implies that record company did not provide any mastering services, i.e., such services were not available from them. (Even if they had been available, such services may not have been in the School's choral budget.) The result was the 1959 record is an uncomfortable and disappointing listening experience.

The lesson learned looking back from many years later, is that much of what can now readily be accomplished via digital mastering of recorded materials was almost impossible then. At that time, it was especially critical that all recording conditions had to be accomodated up front as part of how each recordings was made. That was the only way to make sure when different takes were spliced together, they sounded like a coherent whole, without any mastering.

The GREAT news now in 2022 is:

Why Does The Crucifixion Become Public Domain in 2023 in the U.S.?

Under U.S. copyright laws, copyright exists for 70 years after the last surviving person associated with creating the work dies.

As of 2023, it will be 71 years since William Simpson died. Thus, The Crucifixion will enter the public domain in the U.S.

That means there will no longer be royalty considerations preventing this recording from being provided as a free digital download, or at cost as a CD.

Plans for Digital Mastering (for the first time)

Now, more than 60 years after this record was pressed, TortoiseClimbing plans (after completion of mixing and mastering the Hymns and Songs for Living recording) to have the 1959 monaural LP recording from those performances of The Crucifixion by the AHS choirs digitized and mastered. Thus, for the first time since the performances in spring 1959, the digitally mastered version of that record of the 1959 performances will finally sound like the originally envisioned recording of the choirs' performances.

Distribution Plans


This will be a new source for a better quality product than the original LP, at a better price (free digital file download.) However, the assumption after all these years is there likely will be limited demand for copies, even of this free, digitally mastered recording. Possibly interested persons could include those surviving who participated in these performances over 60 years ago. (That would be from surviving members of the Annapolis High School choirs from the graduating classes involved 1959, 1960, 1961 who participated in those performances.) But maybe it could include some of their children, grandchildren, and friends and family. Interest beyond that is impossible to guess at.

Perhaps another interested party could be Maryland Hall that is the old AHS building where this performance was given in the large auditorium on the main floor they now call the Hall. Since Maryland Hall is serving as a home for preserving the arts in Annapolis, there might be an off chance Maryland Hall might be interested in making the digitally mastered version of this recording available as a representative piece of Maryland Hall's history in the community. If so, it is unknown how they would want to provide, e.g., digital files, CDs?

Another possibility is the Annapolis Chorale. Although formed later, it might have an interest in making this recording available as a historical choral precursor in Annapolis to formation of their chorale. They might even now have members who are children and/or grandchildren of members of the original AHS choirs whose performances are on this recording.

These possibilities for any interest in distribution by Maryland Hall or the Annapolis Chorale are an unknown at this time.


Since the score for The Crucifixion will become public domain in the U.S. the beginning of 2023, that means it will become legal to provide the planned digitally mastered copies of the 1959 recording without having to deal with royalty payments for copyrights. Therefore, TortoiseClimbing™ plans to:

The dropdown submenu above left provides a link to the page from which that download capability will become available for this recording the beginning of 2023.

The known 3 formats of digital audio file formats that can be provided are:

Whether others, like ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) can be produced (investigating options), a very limited number of CDs, or a video should be produced depends on interest. How you can express to TortoiseClimbing™ whether you have any such interest is explained below.

Possible Video Version On YouTube

Conceptually there is the possibility of creating a YouTube version of the mastered performance. That would be a bit of an undertaking to produce appropriate video content to accompany the mastered audio, in order to allow it to be posted to YouTube, but is a possibility. Again, is there any interest?

How to Express Interest

You can express your interest for:

  1. Obtaining a copy of the mastered recording when it becomes available, or
  2. Other optional digital audio formats, such as:

via the comments form on this website.

To submit your comment go to the bottom of this page and click on the link Click to provide comment. It will take you to the comment page, where after providing identifying information, in the comments section at the bottom of the form you can explain your request.

Further inputs are solicited to expand this story about Mr. Kunkle; making of this recording; etc!! For example, what was the recorder Mr. Kunkle obtained for this project? How did he acquire it? Any other specs? What information about Mr. Kunkle would be good to include, and who has it? Etc. Information about choir members, etc.? (By any chance are the choir members listed in the yearbook?) How might this relate to the prehistory of Maryland Hall or the Annapolis Chorale?

If you wish to comment on contents of this webpage, Clicking the button below will both transfer you to the Contact/Comment page, and pass along that you were on this webpage when you decided to comment.

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