The Stabat Mater is a powerful hymn dating from the 13th century that meditates on the suffering of Mary during Christ’s crucifixion. The traditional Latin text, believed to have been written by Jacopone da Todi (1228?–1306) has been used extensively in Church liturgy since the 14th century and has been set to music by over 400 composers ranging from Josquin de Pré, Palestrina, Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Pergolesi to Haydn, Boccherini, Schubert, Rossini and Verdi to Szymanowski, Poulenc, Penderecki and Pärt.
Karl Jenkins says, “I tend to look outside the purely Western European tradition for inspiration and freshness so, apart from setting the religious text, I have also included words by ancient writers from what is now the Middle East. My Stabat Mater also features some indigenous instruments and a female vocalist conjures sounds […] characteristic of [the Middle East].”
Karl Jenkins has set the Stabat Mater poem in Latin and English and has extended it to a universal depiction of grief with texts, some of which originated outside the Western European tradition. The additional texts are: a choral arrangement of the Ave Verum that Jenkins composed for Bryn Terfel; the line And The Mother Did Weep (by Karl Jenkins) sung in English, Greek and Aramaic; Lament with text by Carol Barratt, sung in English; three lines from Are You Lost Out in Darkness, from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, revised into the trochaic quadrameter [used for the Latin Stabat Mater] by the Welsh poet Grahame Davies and sung in both English and Aramaic; and three lines from Now My Life is Only Weeping by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th Century Persian mystic poet who sought consolation in the Divine.
The instrumentation of Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater calls for modern symphony orchestra augmented by ancient percussion instruments, like the darabuca and riq, the flute-like nay and double-reed duduk or mey, indigenous to the “Holy Land” or “Middle-East.”