Via Crucis (Ellerby)

From Wind Repertory Project
Martin Ellerby

Martin Ellerby

Subtitle: The 14 Stations of the Cross. A Processional Service for the Souls of the Dead

General Info

Year: 2006
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Studio Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - £74.95   |   Score Only (print) - £25.00


Full Score
Solo Cello
C Piccolo
Flute I-II-III
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Euphonium I-II
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos (2)
  • Claves
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Side Drum
  • Suspended Cymbals (2: high and low)
  • Tam-tam
  • Temple Blocks (4)
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Wine Bottles (2 sets of 6)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Via Crucis was commissioned by Dr Matthew J George and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble of the University of St Thomas at St Paul, Minnesota. I had previously written a light-hearted work entitled Dreamscapes (2001) for this ensemble, and when offered a second opportunity to write for them, wished to compose something of more searching and serious intent. In between these works I had completed a UK commission Meditations (2002) which was based on the Seven Last Words of Our Saviour from the Cross, and a composition by Haydn of the same name (1787). This was a memorial work dedicated to the events in the USA on September 11th 2001. Via Crucis is equally inspired by a work of the same name by Franz Liszt that I first encountered as a music student in London, November 1977. I was intrigued by the structure of the work and thought I might attempt a version of my own in the future.

As an introduction, a quotation from the writings of Liszt explains the concept behind the ‘Way of the Cross’ as he had envisaged it:

'The devotion to the Stations of the Cross, called Via Crucis, has become a service for the souls of the dead. As such a religious observance it became general in many countries, and even popular in some of them. In some churches we may find paintings showing the Stations of the Cross, and members of the congregation used to tell their respective prayers before each of the pictures hanging on the wall. Sometimes these prayers are told by single persons, sometimes by little groups, in which case the words of the prayers are divided among themselves'.

Via Crucis describes the journey of Christ carrying the Cross, divided into fourteen stages or ‘stations’. Most Catholic churches have pictures or statuettes of these scenes along the walls of the nave, generally seven on either side. The devotion consists of meditations on each scene, usually in the form of prayers or singing in the form of a Passion, and is particularly associated with Lent. The number of stations has not always been fourteen: sometimes fewer were used. Today it is common to add a fifteenth in order to conclude with the Resurrection rather than with the tomb. This enables a positive ending and one I have also adopted. In the concert hall, the episodic nature of so many movements is difficult successfully to sustain and manage, so I have further elaborated the form, leading to a total of seventeen sections. Audiences should not be discouraged at this lengthening of an already long process, as this work is in one continuous span, or movement, played without a break and using the various internal station titles as reference points rather than separate entities.

On a personal note, for the premiere performance, I mulled over this work for over a year before committing to paper. There always seemed to be problems of how to convey the meaning of the original concept within the parameters of a concert hall composition. A solution was provided by Dr Matthew George on a visit to England when he happened to mention that I might like to include a part for 'cello. I followed this up with the idea of the 'cello as a soloist, which met with a positive response. The piece then seemed to unfold naturally, and was completed rapidly in time for the premiere performance on December 14th, 2003.

The work features a solo 'cellist, not as the protagonist in the story, but more in the role of commentator, enabling links to emerge between the various sub-divisions. As Jesus falls three times during the stations, there was the possibility of repeating sections of material, giving greater cohesion to the whole. The work opens with a Prelude -The Cross, which establishes an atmosphere before the first station proper, and announces the key musical motif of the work. This returns, repeated and varied, forming a cementing device and element of reference for listeners. The various stations are then commenced to a halfway point where an Interlude – Golgotha (The Place of a Skull) emerges. The stations are soon resumed to the point where Jesus is laid in the tomb. For my own Postlude – The Resurrection I deliver an instrumental setting of The Lord’s Prayer, reaching an epic conclusion, immediately followed by a gentle coda representing various Amen statements.

In order to give a sense of gradual and ceaseless procession to the music, I have kept the work (with the exception of The Lord’s Prayer segment) in one tempo. I also employ many effects from within the band to add both colour and drama to the imagery of the ‘text’. The whole procession takes just under fifteen minutes to realize, some station depictions being extremely brief, others more extended and considered. The structure is laid out as follows:

A: Prelude – The Cross
1: Jesus is condemned to death
2: Jesus takes up the Cross
3: Jesus falls the first time
4: Jesus meets his blessed Mother
5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross
6: Saint Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7: Jesus falls the second time
8: The women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus
9: Jesus falls the third time
B: Interlude – Golgotha (the place of a skull)
10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes
11: Jesus is nailed to the Cross
12: Jesus dies on the Cross
13: Jesus is taken down from the Cross
14: Jesus is laid in the tomb
C: Postlude – The Resurrection (The Lord’s Prayer)

To close the programme details, this work is in effect an allegory on the ‘Way of the Cross’, and I use the work’s universal dedication, in this offering, to give a clue to its memorial status, which it is hoped lends its meaning both contemporary relevance and historical reverence:

- Program Note by composer

N.B. Extensive performance notes may be found in Discussion tab, above.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Ellerby, M. (2006). Via Crucis: The 14 Stations of the Cross [score]. Studio Music: London, Eng.
  • Martin Ellerby website Accessed 21 June 2021