On Good Friday, the Liturgy of the day consists of three main parts: the Word (focusing on the Passion account from John); the Solemn Intercession; and the Meditation on the Cross.
The tradition of singing the Passion in this context is an ancient one; initially sung by a deacon in medieval times, the text was eventually divided between three clergy: one for the narrator (Chronista), one for Jesus (Christus), and one for the rest of the text (Synagoga/Turba). Subsequently, composers such as T. L. di Victoria (16th-century) began to set the crowd scenes (the Turba) to polyphony. The effect is one of jarring contrast between the beauty of the music, and the brutality of the story unfolding. Bach's settings of the Passion represent a later, and more elaborate, development, including commentary in the form of arias and chorales, but are still firmly part of this tradition.
Normally at St John's we sing the Passion using Victoria's polyphony. This year it's not possible, of course, but we have pieced together a version without the polyphony, recorded remotely. Hopefully this is useful for you on this most strange of Good Fridays.
Thanks to MacRae Choral Scholars Kyla Fradette and Felix Butterfield for recording Synagoga and Christus!