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.