The Bach Choir Of Bethlehem to Celebrate 116th Bach Festival in May

Performances will run 10-11 & May 17-18, 2024

By: Apr. 10, 2024
The Bach Choir Of Bethlehem to Celebrate 116th Bach Festival in May
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Amid May blossoms in picturesque Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, The Bach Choir of Bethlehem has unveiled its 116th Festival over two weekends, May 10 -11 and May 17 -19, 2024. The Choir will present chamber concerts, recitals, lectures, and the highly anticipated centerpiece of its yearly festivities-Bach's celebrated Mass in B Minor.

The Bach Choir and Festival Orchestra, under the baton of Artistic Director and Conductor Christopher Jackson, will be joined by distinguished soloists: Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Butterfield, tenor; William Sharp, baritone; and Paul Max Tipton, bass-baritone. The Bach Choir of Bethlehem gave the American premiere of the B Minor Mass in 1900; ever since, it has continued to lure local, national, and international music lovers to its annual rendition of the Mass.

"This year's Bethlehem Festival comes during preparations for our European tour in June," says Maestro Jackson. "We are pleased to have been reinvited to the Leipzig Bachfest this summer, after the 2020 festival was cancelled by the pandemic. We welcome this opportunity to reconnect with Bach's legacy and refresh our presence at the world's most renowned Bach festival."

A highlight of the 116th Festival will be performances by acclaimed recorder virtuoso Vincent Lauzer, who features as a soloist in two Bach cantatas, Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96, and Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180, as well as in Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in the Bach at 8 concert. This concert, which includes compositions by Rheinberger as well as works from the American choral tradition, will preview the Bach Choir's upcoming program for its European Tour. Mr. Lauzer also appears as soloist in the Ifor Jones Memorial Chamber Music Concert in a performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

Other highlights are a performance of the Goldberg Variations by the Bach Choir star harpsichordist Charlotte Mattax Moersch; Mozart's Serenade No. 5 in D Major, K. 204/213a, (the Bach Choir's nod to its upcoming performance in Salzburg where Mozart composed this work in 1775); as well as the early cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150 and the intimate funeral motet Komm, Jesu, Komm, BWV 229. A lecture by Dr. Michael Marissen, Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College and this year's Barnette Distinguished Scholar Lecturer will contribute a fresh perspective on Bach's writing for the recorder. The Festival tradition also includes Bach Outdoors!, Zimmermann's Coffee House, and Chorale Sings.

For more information on Bach Choir of Bethlehem, please visit the official website; to learn more about the European Tour, please visit the event page.

This past November, the Choir unveiled the world premiere of a new edition of Mendelssohn's version of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Reviewing the premiere for "Seen and Heard," noted journalist Laurence Vittes wrote:

...it was appropriate that the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, led by Christopher Jackson, its new artistic director, would celebrate their 125th anniversary by giving the first performance of Mendelssohn's arrangement in the first edition to authoritatively address the issues that have been identified with reconstructing what Mendelssohn had in mind.

And, above all, there were the 94 volunteer singers of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and the 35 professional musicians of the Festival Orchestra. The choir has been performing Bach's B minor Mass annually since their first US performance in 1900, the legacy of which is a familiarity with Bach's language and the sense of purpose and community in his choral music. Especially in the St. Matthew Passion, which has such a painful intimacy, and with Mendelssohn's slight adjustments here and there, the choir and the orchestra phrased together so closely that they seemed to become one musical fabric. The warmth of the choir was complemented by the joy the musicians in the orchestra were clearly taking in all their important solos - perhaps the fact that each was an expert in playing Bach 'the way Bach would have played it' had doubled their pleasure in playing Bach the way Mendelssohn would have played it...After a tremendous earthquake, Jackson brought the Passion home with an ending so deeply satisfying that I knew if this were the only St. Matthew Passion we had, I would survive.

The oldest American Bach Choir was founded in 1898 and gave not only the first complete American performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor in 1900 but also the Bach Christmas Oratorio in 1901. The internationally renowned Choir has been attracting thousands of visitors from across the United States and beyond to the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival in Pennsylvania. The 95 dedicated volunteer singers of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Bach Festival Orchestra, and well-known soloists perform 40 concerts and educational programs annually for an audience of more than 22,000. Important international concert venues The Bach Choir has visited include: Herkulessaal at Munich's Royal Residence and Bach's church in Leipzig, the Thomaskirche; The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall as part of The Choir's Centennial Celebration in 1998-2000; the BBC Proms in London's Royal Albert Hall for an eight-concert tour of the United Kingdom in 2003; and Severance Hall, Cleveland, for the 75th anniversary of the Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival in 2007. In September 2011, The Bach Choir represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a 10th anniversary musical observance of 9/11 in New York City, giving concerts in Saint Paul's Chapel and Trinity Church, Wall Street. In 2013, The Choir performed Mendelssohn's Elijah at Strathmore in the Washington D.C. area, and in 2014, the new opera Young Meister Bach for the 250th anniversary of the German Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The Choir has released 12 recordings to date on the Dorian and Analekta labels including, most recently, Mendelssohn interpretation of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in a newly edited version by Malcolm Bruno (2024); Bach's Cantata 21 (2018), Handel's Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day (2018), A Child's Christmas in Bethlehem (2013), and Saint John Passion (2012). The Choir has been featured on National Public Radio's Performance Today and Prairie Home Companion, Deutsche Radio, the BBC World Service, CBS Sunday Morning, and the Emmy award-winning PBS documentary "Make a Joyful Noise." It has been recognized for its outstanding educational outreach programs (Bach at Noon, Bach to School, and Interdisciplinary Family Concerts) by annual awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (2011-2019). The J.S. Bach Foundation in Switzerland named The Bach Choir of Bethlehem as the first American recipient of its annual award to a single Bach organization, recognizing The Bach Choir's outstanding work in Bach performance and education for young people (2012). "Mr. Bach Comes to Call," a film based on the acclaimed Classical Kids CD, was co-produced by The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and is distributed internationally by the Children's Group.

The Bel Canto Youth Chorus is The Bach Choir's youth choir educational program under the direction of Director Kelly Rocchi. Through Bel Canto and other educational programs, The Bach Choir is training the next generation of choral singers and cultivating a life-long passion for the choral arts.

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2024

12 noon| Bach Outdoors! | Payrow Plaza

FREE concert, featuring Artist-in-Residence Vincent Lauzer, recorder virtuoso

2 pm | Lecture: Dr. Michael Marissen - "The Low are Made Mighty" | Room 145, Zoellner Arts Center

FREE lecture, Dr. Marissen, Daniel Underhill Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College, will offer a fresh perspective on Bach's writing for the recorder.

3:30 pm | Chorale Sing | Incarnation of Our Lord Church, Thomas & Buchanan Streets

FREE concert featuring Christopher Jackson and members of The Bach Choir in Bach Chorales, the community is invited to sing together with the Bach Choir, sheet music will be provided

4 pm | Performances in Intimate & Historic Settings Choice A: Bach at 4 | Incarnation of Our Lord Church, Thomas & Buchanan streets | Tickets: general Admission $25, student admission $9

Program: Cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150 & funeral motet Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229 presented by The Bach Choir, soloists, and Vincent Lauzer

4 pm | Performances in Intimate & Historic Settings Choice B: Chamber Music in the Saal| the Saal at the Moravian Museum | Tickets: general admission: $30, student admission $9

Program: Charlotte Mattax Moersch performs Goldberg Variations

5:45 pm | Dinner/Discussion hosted by Dr. Larry Lipkis, Professor of Music and Composer-in-Residence at Moravian University | Butz Lobby, Zoellner Arts Center | Tickets: general admission $55

8 pm | Bach at 8 | Packer Memorial Church | Tickets: General admission $34, student admission $9

Program: Bach's Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96, Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, works by Rheinberger, Mendelssohn, and American choral tradition pieces

SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2024

10:30 am | Ifor Jones Chamber Music Concert | Baker Hall | Tickets: general admission $25,

student admission $9

Program: Telemann's Suite for Recorder and Strings, TWV 55:a2, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and select movements from Mozart's Serenade No. 5 in D Major, K. 204/213a, presented by The Bach Festival Orchestra and Vincent Lauzer

12:15 pm | Heritage Society Luncheon featuring remarks and conversation from one of the Festival soloists | Butz Lobby, Zoellner Arts Center | Tickets: Free for top 3 level Guarantors and all Heritage Society members, other Heritage Society Guarantor: $30, public $40

2 pm | Chorale Sing | Packer Memorial Church, Lehigh University

FREE concert featuring Christopher Jackson and members of The Bach Choir in Bach Chorales, the community is invited to sing together with the Bach Choir, sheet music will be provided

2:30 pm & 4:30 pm | Mass in B Minor | Packer Memorial Church, Lehigh University | Tickets: $20 - $68, $20 for online livestream at 2:30 pm

7 pm | Zimmermann's Coffee House featuring young musicians chosen by audition | Peter Hall, Moravian University | Tickets: general admission $30

FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2024

12 noon| Concert: Bach Outdoors! | Payrow Plaza

FREE concert, featuring Artist-in-Residence Vincent Lauzer, recorder virtuoso

2 pm | Lecture: Dr. Michael Marissen - "The Low are Made Mighty" | Room 145, Zoellner Arts Center

FREE lecture, Dr.Marissen, Daniel Underhill Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College, will offer a fresh perspective on Bach's writing for the recorder.

3:30 pm | Concert: Chorale Sing | Incarnation of Our Lord Church, Thomas & Buchanan Streets

FREE concert featuring Christopher Jackson and members of The Bach Choir in Bach Chorales, the community is invited to sing together with the Bach Choir, sheet music will be provided

4 pm | Performances in Intimate & Historic Settings Choice A: Bach at 4 | Incarnation of Our Lord Church, Thomas & Buchanan Streets | Tickets: general Admission $25, student admission $9

Program: Cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150 & funeral motet Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229 presented by The Bach Choir, soloists, and Vincent Lauzer

4 pm | Performances in Intimate & Historic Settings Choice B: Chamber Music in the Saal| the Saal at the Moravian Museum | Tickets: general admission: $30, student admission $9

Program: Charlotte Mattax Moersch performs Goldberg Variations

8 pm | Bach at 8 | Packer Memorial Church | Ticket: General admission $34, student admission $9

Program: Bach's Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96, Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, works by Rheinberger, Mendelssohn, and American choral tradition pieces

SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2024

10:30 am | Chorale Sing | Packer Memorial Church, Lehigh University

FREE concert featuring Christopher Jackson and members of The Bach Choir gather to sing Bach Chorales, the community is invited to sing together with the Bach Choir, sheet music will be provided

11 am & 1 pm | Mass in B Minor | Packer Memorial Church, Lehigh University | Tickets: $20 - $68

2:30 pm | Heritage Society Luncheon featuring remarks and conversation from one of the Festival soloists | Butz Lobby, Zoellner Arts Center | Tickets: Free for top 3 level Guarantors and all Heritage Society members, other Heritage Society Guarantor: $30, public $40

4 pm | Ifor Jones Chamber Music Concert | Baker Hall | Tickets: general admission $25,

student admission $9

Program: Telemann's Suite for Recorder and Strings, TWV 55:a2, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and select movements from Mozart's Serenade No. 5 in D Major, K. 204/213a, presented by The Bach Festival Orchestra and Vincent Lauzer

7 pm | Zimmermann's Coffee House featuring young musicians chosen by audition | Peter Hall, Moravian University | Tickets: general admission $30

SUNDAY, May 19, 2024

1 pm | Young American Singers Competition Finals | Peter Hall, Moravian University

FREE event sponsored by the American Bach Society and The Bach Choir of Bethlehem




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