Check out what James Bash had to say at Northwest Reverb.
By Lorin Wilkerson
Being a musician can sometimes be a frustrating thing. I often feel that if I’d put half as much of the effort I’ve put into music into anything else, I’d probably be making a great living at it. Still here I am, another amateur musician struggling through a 40-hour work week, and then finding the time afterward to reap a little artistic fulfillment with the various musical and music-related activities that fill my spare time.
There are some times though, when the reason that I (like so many others) put so much effort into music becomes abundantly clear to me. A couple of examples in recent weeks come to mind, both of them involving the Bach Cantata Choir.
A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I had the privilege of singing with about eight or nine members of the BCC (along with a whole slew of other great singers from various choirs around town). Along with the great musicians from Classical Revolution Portland and others, we were able to help raise over $4000 for Partners in Health for immediate use in aiding the survivors in that disaster zone. I know that All Classical Radio gave us free publicity, and rumor has it that OPB opened up their e-mail list to CRPDX as well. Sure, even $4000 is only a drop in the bucket in comparison to the magnitude of the need there, but still—all of this was done by artists, musicians, and the organizations that support them. I felt a welling of pride as we sang the ‘Lacrimosa’ from Mozart’s Requiem by way of honoring those who perished, and a surge of hope as we did an improvised rendition of The Beatles ‘With a Little Help from My Friends.’ This last was for the survivors but also for us, to help combat the despair we feel at the plight of our fellow travelers. It served as a reminder to me of the power of music—not just the abstract power to heal the heart and uplift the human spirit, but a real, nuts-and-bolts power, the ability that music has to be a driving force for good.
Another thing that stands out in my mind is more related to an artistic rather than humanistic level, and that was singing the U.S. premiere of Johann Schelle’s ‘Lobe den Herr, Meine Seele.’ This amazing, middle-baroque masterwork that had never seen the light of day in America was an absolute blast to sing. With the resplendent brass choir, the massed strings and the mighty sound of two choruses, it was a rousing finish to a great concert, and I was justly proud of our whole group and my small part in it as the full house suddenly and spontaneously rose to its feet. I was thrilled to be part of such a group, one able to do something of so much worth and artistic value. Sometimes it’s great to be a musician.
The Bach Cantata Choir of Portland will present a free concert of music dating from 1410 through 1736 on “Superbowl” Sunday – Sunday February 7th from 2:00pm-3:00pm at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, 1907 NE 45th Ave in Portland, Oregon. The concert, under the direction of conductor Ralph Nelson, will feature the American premiere of “Lobe den Herrn” by Johann Schelle (1648-1701) – a predecessor of Bach’s at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The concert also features Bach’s Cantata #18 and smaller works by Ockeghem (1410-1487), Clemens non Papa (1510-1556), Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736). The concert is free and open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken. Doors open at 1:30pm.
Since the early 1600s, the position of “Cantor” at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig (Germany) has been considered one of the most important musical positions in all of Europe. Johann Sebastian Bach held this position from 1723 until his death in 1750. The featured composer on this concert, Johann Schelle, held the position from 1677 until his death in 1701. A student of Heinrich Schütz, Schelle composed mainly for the church and was the first composer at St. Thomas to primarily compose works in German as opposed to Latin. His work, “Lobe den Herrn” is a work set on large scale (9 brass instruments, tympani, string orchestra, organ and chorus in 10 parts) – and scholars think that it may have been composed either for a “Thanksgiving” service or for the annual opening of the Leipzig Town Council. The work has been brought to light (and recorded) by Robert King, director of the King’s Consort in England, and the Bach Cantata Choir has received a copy of these scores directly from Mr. King. The Bach Cantata Choir will be the first choir in America to perform this work.
Also on the program are fascinating smaller works with an “anniversary” theme. Johannes Ockeghem was born 600 years ago in 1410 – and his short work “Alma Redemptoris Mater” is a beautiful work set in the late Medieval style. The concert also features other composers who are having “anniversary years” – namely the Flemish composer Clemens non Papa (born 1510), and Giovanni Pergolesi (born 1710). In the year 1610, the famous Venetian composer Claudio Monteverdi wrote a monumental work for chorus and orchestra entitled “Vespers of 1610” – the Bach Cantata Choir will perform one movement from this work – the “Ave Maris Stella”.
The Bach Cantata Choir will also live up to its mission of performing a Bach Cantata at each concert by performing J.S Bach’s Cantata #18, “Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt”. The soloists featured in this cantata will be Cameron Herbert, soprano, Byron Wright, tenor and bass-baritone Jacob Herbert.
Except for the Ockeghem and Clemens pieces, which will be performed a cappella, all works will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra. Former PSU professor Gerald Webster has assembled the brass players for the Schelle, and the Bach Cantata will feature Portland recorderist Zoe Tokar. John Vergin will provide the organ continuo. This concert features the Bach Cantata Choir – a choir of 55 professional or semi-professional voices, drawn from many of Portland’s finest choirs.
February Newsletter Posted
The most recent edition of the Bach Cantata Choir's newsletter, BachBeat, is now available for download online. If you would like to receive the newsletter in your inbox (or mailbox), please email BachBeat editor, Lorin Wilkerson.