About the Performances
Notes from the Maestro
Telemann was THE important composer in early 18th-century Lutheran Germany. His tremendous output of music in nearly every category was highly valued. Today, the music of J.S. Bach has eclipsed Telemann’s stature in both the history of Western music and in the concert hall. But every time I have programmed Telemann over the past 3 decades, the audience and the musicians rediscover the delightful inventiveness of his music. His concerto for oboe d’amore is just such a work. The oboe d’amore (Italian for ‘oboe of love’) was invented in the early 18th century, but after the Baroque era, the instrument fell out of use. There is a resurgence of popularity for this most sweet of oboes, and new works are being written for the instrument, including A Siege of Herons by composer Forrest Pierce, given its world premiere by Margaret Marco and the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra in 2016.
Largely unknown in the concert hall, and still woefully underrepresented in opera performances, the wonderfully inventive French composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau represents a completely different sound world from what we normally associate with the Baroque. We usually think of the late Baroque represented by the music on the rest of this concert – Bach, Handel, Telemann (and Vivaldi, of course, though not represented on this concert). The wonderful sonorities and dramatic gestures of Rameau’s music are even more of a surprise as a result. The concert opens with not one, but two overtures from his dramatic works, paired to set the stage (pardon the pun) for the rest of the concert!
As might be expected with any choral work by Bach setting a religious text, the Magnificat is one of the greatest works in the repertoire. Like the other composers on this concert, Bach was a great dramatist. But unlike Handel and Rameau, he never wrote anything for the secular stage. His sense of drama brought to life the great stories and texts of Christianity and Lutheranism, which provided the main part of his life’s employment and motivated a good deal of his compositional output. Always aware of the musical and dramatic possibilities of the texts he was setting, the Magnificat follows in this tradition. The ancient song attributed to Mary, which in the Latin begins, “Magnificat”, translates into English as “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Divided into sections for chorus and five different soloists, each section is musically animated by the text. It opens with an excited and energetic “Magnificat,” the chorus repeating the word ecstatically. The next choral appearance interrupts the Soprano soloist to sing “all generations shall call me blessed.” These are two illustrations of classic “word painting” that occurs throughout the score bringing the text to life. Bach’s glorious setting is full of drama and jubilation, fitting for the celebration of Christmas for which it was written.
About the Artists
Margaret Marco, Oboe
Since beginning her career as the principal oboist of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Maracaibo in Venezuela, Margaret Marco’s solo, chamber and orchestral performances have brought her to prestigious international venues in Japan, Costa Rica, England, Canada, the Czech Republic and Spain. In October 2015 she performed and presented master classes at the distinguished Central Conservatory in Beijing, China. Read more about Margaret at her website.
Sarah Tannehill Anderson, Soprano
Sarah Tannehill Anderson is a versatile musician, excelling as a singer of opera, oratorio, choral music, contemporary works, and art song; she is also a pianist and violinist. Having performed a companies including Opera Company of Philadelphia, Boston Lyric, Opera Omaha, Fort Worth Opera, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sarah is now thrilled to make her career in the vibrant Kansas City music scene. Read more about Sarah at the New Music website.
Kayleigh Aytes, Soprano
Young lyric coloratura soprano, Kayleigh Aytes, is enchanting audiences with her charming stage presence, graceful voice, and elegant musicianship. Her recent engagements include collaborations with the Te Deum Chamber Choir and the Kansas City Baroque Consortium as a guest soloist. She is a featured artist in Trinity Lutheran’s Bach Cantata Series for a second season. As a member, she performs with the respected Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Kansas City Collegium Vocale and Spire Chamber Ensemble. This summer, Ms. Aytes was a young artist with the NAPA Music Festival in Napa Valley, California. You can also hear and see her on the stunning and contemporary promotional video for the Grand Opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Read more about Kayleigh at her website.
Jay Carter, Countertenor
American countertenor Jay Carter has gained recognition as one of the nation’s finest, lauded for his luminous tone and stylish interpretations especially in the music of Bach, Handel, and Purcell. A frequent collaborator with both period and modern ensembles, Carter is nationally recognized as a leading interpreter of late Baroque repertoire. He has gained acclaim for recital programs of modern classics typically outside the standard countertenor repertory by composers such as Brahms, Britten, Schubert, and Hahn. Read more about Jay at his website.
Kyle Stegall, Tenor
Kyle Stegall’s performances around the world have been met with accolade for his “blemish-free production” (Sydney Morning Herald), “lovely tone and ardent expression” (NY Times), as well as his “lively and empathetic delivery” (San Francisco Classical Voice). An artist who communicates equally well on concert, opera, and recital stages, his performances are characterized by an unfailing attention to style and detail, and a penetrating directness of communication. Read more about Kyle at his website.
Warren Huffman, Baritone Bass
A native of Kansas City, Warren received his undergraduate training at William Jewell College. He holds a Master of Music from Pittsburg State University. And he was awarded an Artists Diploma from The Opera Theatre of the Boston and New England Conservatories working under John Moriarty.
Critically praised for his interpretations of the bel canto repertory, Mr. Huffman’s roles include Donizetti’s Malatesta and Belcore, Mozart’s Almaviva and Gugielmo in Cosi fan Tutte as well as too many turns of Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus to remember. Warren has performed leading roles with Connecticut Opera, Des Moines Metropolitan Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. He has toured with both the Manhattan Lyric Opera and American Opera Theater. And once upon a time, he was privileged to sing Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors starring a young Ben Bliss before he found his way to the Metropolitan Opera.
On the concert stage, Warren was chosen as a soloist for the Juneau Symphony’s premier performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 9. In Kansas City, he has been heard as a soloist in Haydn’s Creation under the baton of Mark Ball.
About the Artists
Anthony Maglione – Guest Conductor
Conductor/Composer Anthony J. Maglione is a graduate of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, East Carolina University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the Director of Choral Studies at William Jewell College where, under his direction, the Concert Choir was Runner Up (2nd Place) for the American Prize in Choral Performance, College/University Division. In addition to his responsibilities at William Jewell College, he serves as Artist-in-Residence and Choir Master at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Conductor Emeritus of the Freelance Ensemble Artists of NJ Symphony Orchestra. From 2012 to 2018 he served as Director of the Greater Kansas City AGO Schola Cantorum.
An active composer, Anthony’s choral works are growing in popularity and are published on GIA’s “Evoking Sound” choral series. In the last several years his music has appeared at state and national-level conventions, on TV, in video games, and has been recorded on Gothic Records, Albany Records, and Centaur Records. In 2014 and 2015, Anthony was honored as a Semi-Finalist and Finalist (respectively) for the American Prize in Composition, Professional Choral Division and was recently awarded the 2016-2017 William Jewell College Spencer Family Sabbatical, a year-long fully funded sabbatical in order to compose two new large-scale works for choir, soloists and chamber orchestra. Anthony's cantata The Wedding of Solomon premiered at the 2018 American Guild of Organists National Convention. He is currently slated for several more premieres throughout the United States during the remainder of 2019 and 2020.
As a tenor, Anthony has appeared with Kansas City Baroque Consortium, Sunflower Baroque, Spire Chamber Ensemble. He currently performs with Kantorei KC and performs and records with The Same Stream Choir.
Anthony has made numerous guest conducting/clinician appearances and has prepared ensembles for such esteemed conductors as James Conlon, James Jordan, David Newman, Donald Neuen, and Alex Treger. Ensembles under his leadership have performed nationally and internationally at renowned concert venues including Disney Hall in Los Angeles and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Jessie Montgomery – Composer for Starburst
Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post).
Jessie was born and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s during a time when the neighborhood was at a major turning point in its history. Artists gravitated to the hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development. Her parents – her father a musician, her mother a theater artist and storyteller – were engaged in the activities of the neighborhood and regularly brought Jessie to rallies, performances, and parties where neighbors, activists, and artists gathered to celebrate and support the movements of the time. It is from this unique experience that Jessie has created a life that merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy.
Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African-American and Latinx string players. She currently serves as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, the Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. She was a two-time laureate of the annual Sphinx Competition and was awarded a generous MPower grant to assist in the development of her debut album, Strum: Music for Strings (Azica Records). She has received additional grants and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Composers Orchestra, the Joyce Foundation, and the Sorel Organization.
Her growing body of work includes solo, chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Some recent highlights include Five Slave Songs (2018) commissioned for soprano Julia Bullock by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Records from a Vanishing City (2016) for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Caught by the Wind (2016) for the Albany Symphony and the American Music Festival, and Banner (2014) – written to mark the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner – for The Sphinx Organization and the Joyce Foundation.
In the 2019-20 season, new commissioned works will be premiered by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the National Choral Society, and ASCAP Foundation. Jessie is also teaming up with composer-violinist Jannina Norpoth to reimagine Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha; it is being produced by Volcano Theatre and co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts, Stanford University, Southbank Centre (London), National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Additionally, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony will all perform Montgomery’s works this season.
The New York Philharmonic has selected Jessie as one of the featured composers for their Project 19, which marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting equal voting rights in the United States to women. Other forthcoming works include a nonet inspired by the Great Migration, told from the perspective of Montgomery’s great-grandfather William McCauley and to be performed by Imani Winds and the Catalyst Quartet; a cello concerto for Thomas Mesa jointly commissioned by Carnegie Hall, New World Symphony, and The Sphinx Organization; and a new orchestral work for the National Symphony.
Jessie began her violin studies, at the Third Street Music School Settlement, one of the oldest community organizations in the country. A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and currently a member of the Catalyst Quartet, she continues to maintain an active performance career as a violinist appearing regularly with her own ensembles, as well as with the Silkroad Ensemble and Sphinx Virtuosi.
Jessie’s teachers and mentors include Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, Alice Kanack, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel, Mark Suozzo, Ira Newborn, and Laura Kaminsky. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a Graduate Fellow in Music Composition at Princeton University.
Previous Season Concert Notes
Spanning the Centuries
Notes from Ward Holmquist, conductor
SEASON AND SENTIMENT
“If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be in having any spring.”
— Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
After too many gray-black days and too frequent windshield ice-scraping, I feel like I’m about to get skewered in a Game of Thrones battle. This final, most welcome shift of seasons has brought me–and I hope, you as well–back to life. Spring and Love are where we should spend the bulk of our time on earth.
On this concert, I am joining with the KCCO and its fine musicians to share with you things I love about music, music-making and the people involved with the entire social event:
New music, living composer–female/String section sound
It’s always especially exciting to rehearse and perform music by a living, breathing composer. We are too unaccustomed to the occurrence as “classical” musicians and listeners, partially due to the inaccessible nature of composers who wish to write “real” or “serious” music.
Not true for American composer Dorothy Chang. While her music is clearly and rigorously crafted, she repeatedly finds inspiration from daily life, as well as folk instrument sounds from her cultural and genetic heritage. This gives her music, I believe, a sense of connection to our thoughts, experiences and emotions. I heartily encourage you to learn more about her and hear more of her music on her website and view an informative short interview with her on YouTube.
Virtuosities reminds me in a general sense to the great Bernard Herrmann film scores, North by Northwest in particular. Plenty of rich dissonance, but appropriately evocative, and by turns, like a Herrmann score–virtuosic.
As a pianist and former brass player, I remain entranced by the sound a group of string players make together. Perhaps it’s that rosined horsehair drawn back and forth across strings braced over a wooden box produces a sound which awakens a primal memory in me. Maybe I just like it because I never got to take one in hand and study it with a teacher. No matter–it’s a very special, emotion-rich sound.
Breakout vocal talent
Discovering and presenting a young artist with exceptional gifts at the sunrise of their professional visibility is a pleasure unlike no other, a truly “spring” event I have enjoyed throughout my career. It took me about 15 seconds of listening to become excited about this young man, Josh Lovell, and I hope you will feel that as well. He has already been identified and trained in the leading opera professional young artist programs, and I couldn’t resist programming the Rossini Semiramide aria he offered. This is a dramatic aria (and role) only attempted by great tenor specialists like Rockwell Blake, Lawrence Brownlee and Juan Diego Flórez. Very, very few operatic tenors can handle the demanding coloratura and the high Ds. Josh is one of them. You will be able to say “I heard him live, when he was just starting his career.”
Humor in music
In the world of improbable, ludicrous and hilarious musical characterizations of dramatic events, Gioacchino Rossini’s compositions remain so fundamentally affixed in our collective conscious that even unclassical ears recognize the style. Its brand is on par with Kleenex®, Frisbee® , and Apple®. Rossini’s heirs, alas, no longer can reap the financial rewards from his evergreen success over the last 150+ years, due to copyright expiration. But that legal freedom has allowed his joyful sounds to freely proliferate. The La scala di seta (The Silk Ladder) overture is another Rossini romp, and a tour de force for the woodwinds.
Nothing really needs to be said about Mozart. He’s at least a third of the spinal column of any classical musician’s training, and slides into a listener’s ear canal with a comfortable familiarity like our friend Rossini. I’ve always been drawn to his 40th, probably because I love how he can draw such an unanticipated kaleidoscope of emotions from a minor tonality. For a composer, that’s mastery of craft as well as artistic inspiration. May we be blessed by more composers with resources in both categories.
About the Artists
Ward Holmquist conducted the Lyric Opera from 1998 to 2015 as the second artistic director in the Company’s history. Mr. Holmquist has conducted numerous productions with the Company including the productions of Turandot, Nixon in China, Hamlet, The End of the Affair, Julius Caesar, and the world premiere of John Brown. His academic training includes degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and he received a Fulbright study grant in conducting at the venerable Hochschule for Musik in Vienna, Austria.
Mr. Holmquist began his professional career at the Houston Grand Opera as a member of the Houston Opera Studio as an apprentice pianist/coach/conductor. Over time he rose to the position of Resident Conductor of the main company, during which time he was involved in world premieres of contemporary works by Stewart Wallace, Carlisle Floyd, John Adams and Philip Glass, among others.
Described as "evocative and kaleidoscopic” (Seattle Times) the music of composer Dorothy Chang often reflects the eclectic mix of musical influences from her youth, ranging from popular and folk music to elements of traditional Chinese music. Many of her works are inspired by place, time, memory and personal histories.
Dorothy’s catalog includes over seventy works for solo, chamber and large ensembles as well as collaborations involving theatre, dance and video. Her interest in cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration has led to projects including a radio play adaptation of Gertrude Stein’s White Wines for four vocalists and speaking percussionist, several mixed chamber ensemble works for Chinese and Western instruments, and most recently, a collaboration with choreographer Yukichi Hattori and four other composers in the large-scale True North Symphonic Ballet premiered in 2017 by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
Her music has been featured in concerts and festivals across North America and abroad, with performances by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Queens Symphony Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, as well as by chamber ensembles including eighth blackbird, the Nu:BC Collective, the Smith Quartet, Soundstreams, the Chicago Saxophone Quartet, Collage New Music and Music from China, among others.
Tenor Josh Lovell is in his final year as a member of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. His recent and upcoming performances include Odoardo in Ariodante, Le Doyen de la Faculté in Cendrillon, and a Trojan in Idomeneo. He also covered the roles of Arbace in Idomeneo, the Young Servant in Elektra, and Lurcanio in Ariodante. On the concert stage, Josh Lovell will debut with The International Music Foundation and Apollo Chorus in Handel’s Messiah, as the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Victoria Philharmonic in Canada, and sing select Bach cantatas as well as the Magnificat with Baroque ensemble Musici de Montréal.
An avid concert performer, Josh Lovell has performed Handel’s Messiah with the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia as well as with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. Other orchestral work includes Mozart’s Requiem with the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra, Bach’s Mass in B Minor with The Handel Society, Handel’s Jephtha with the Oakland Choral Society, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the Victoria Baroque Players.
Bridges of the Heart
Wednesday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m.
We are so excited about the great music our gifted young soloists from the International Center for Music at Park University will perform with the orchestra on this concert! I hope you will join me to experience this amazing program – here are some details on the line-up.
Chopin was one of the most gifted composers for the piano that ever lived. In his variations on a duet from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, Chopin opens with a free “fantasy” then follows with a set of variations on the famous tune before turning it into a “polonaise”, a dance from his native Poland that he exploited throughout his career. It is a work with a great melody, great pianistic filigree, and great story-telling, all hallmarks of Chopin’s gift, and composed when he was just 17! The work inspired Robert Schumann’s famous exclamation, "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!"
Two great virtuosic works for violin are featured on this concert. Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso is one of the most famous works for solo violin from the Romantic era. It was originally composed as the last movement of a violin concerto. It has become justly famous as a stand-alone piece and a hallmark of dazzling musical fireworks on the violin. Tchaikovsky’s Valse Scherzo is equally virtuosic, though less well-known. This is a fabulous opportunity to hear this great piece in live performance.
Fritz Kreisler was one of the most famous violinists of all time. In fact, his cadenzas for the Beethoven Violin Concerto are still the most often performed, and Elgar composed his violin concerto for him. But his name is synonymous with composing delightful short works designed as encores. Liebesfreud is among the most famous and its joyous and infectious tunes make the heart sing. His Caprice Viennois was featured on Broadway in the revue Continental Varieties in 1934!
Haydn is revered as the composer who almost single-handedly invented the string quartet and symphony. His C-major cello concerto has a divine slow movement with the cello soaring and singing over a simple orchestral accompaniment and concludes with an ecstatic and energetic final movement.
Continuing our commitment to women composers this season, we will open the concert with Caroline Shaw's Entr'acte. Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for music, and is one of the most important composers of her generation. It is said that her music "engages the heart", so it's perfect for Valentine's week!
See you at the concert,
Bruce Sorrell, Music Director/Conductor
Laurel Gagnon began her violin studies at the age of three and made her solo debut at the age of 12 with the New Hampshire Youth Symphony in a performance of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. Since 2013 she has studied under Professor Ben Sayevich at the International Center for Music, first performing with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra in 2015 in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons under music director Bruce Sorrell. Gagnon recently won fourth prize at the Singapore International Violin Competition, the “grand prix’ for emerging young violinists, and in 2015 garnered first prize at the Naftzger Young Artist Competition. Gagnon has studied at the Sarasota Music Festival in Florida and at the Meadowmount School of Music in Westport, N.Y. She currently performs on a 1719 Carlo Tononi violin from the Rin Collection.
Igor Khukhua, who was born in Novosibirsk, Russia, studied at the Moscow State Conservatory and was an artist with the Moscovia Orchestra. In 2016, he successfully won the competition that would place him with a full-time position with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, but he declined the offer, opting instead to come to the U.S. to study with Park ICM and professor Ben Sayevich. Since arriving in the U.S., Igor has won second prize at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String Competition in New York and first prize at the Naftzger Artists Competition. In 2016, he amazed audiences with his U.S. debut at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Dilshod Narzillaev was born in 1997 in Navoi, Uzbekistan. In 2007, he began studying cello under the tutelage of Professor Djakhangir Ibragimov in the R.M. Glier specialized school of music. Narzillaev is the winner of several competitions, including the Classic-2008 competition and the 2011 Rovere d’Oro Prize in Italy; the grand prize at the Alexandr Glazunov competition in Paris; second prize at the Tashkent International Competition; grand prize in the Jubanov Competition, grand prize at the Ilyas Ibragimov Competition; and grand prize in the Uzbekistan Republic Competition. With the Uzbek National Symphony, Narzillaev has performed Bach, Saint-Saëns, Dvorak, Haydn D major, Haydn C Major, and Shostakovich Concertos. He first appeared with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra in 2016, performing Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso, and currently studies with Daniel Veis at the International Center for Music at Park University.
Vladislav Kosminov, a native of Uzbekistan, made his U.S. debut in 2013 under the baton of Maestro Guillermo Figueroa. Prior to his United States debut, he was a prizewinner at several international competitions, including the Shabyt Inspiration International Piano Competition (Grand Prize, Astana, Kazakhstan) and the International Rubinstein Piano Concerto Competition (Second Prize, Paris, France). In 2015, he was a prizewinner of the George Gershwin International Competition in Brooklyn, New York. At home, he studied at the Academic Musical Lyceum for gifted children named after Vladimir Uspensky, and performed in various cities in Uzbekistan. Kosminov came to the U.S. in 2013 to pursue a Professional Performance Certificate at the Lynn Conservatory of Music, and is now pursuing a Masters in performance with Stanislav Ioudenitch at ICM.
Bach Home for the Holidays
Tuesday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral
Notes from conductor Arnold Epley
Artistic Director and Conductor of Musica Vocale
Notes from soloist Jay Carter
Associate Artistic Advisor and Conductor of Musica Vocale
Thursday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Old Mission United Methodist Church
Notes from the Maestro
Jean Belmont Ford is a composer whose music performed all over the world and lives in our community. I can think of no greater way to begin this season than to give a second performance of her dazzling and moving Vocalise composed for the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson. The world premiere, which we gave in November 2015, was one of the stunning moments in the history of the Chamber Orchestra.
As a conductor, I often return to the Bach Suites for small orchestra. As I open the score to the first of the suites – for oboes, bassoon, strings, and harpsichord – I literally start dancing as I hear the music in my mind. The Baroque era was dominated by the music of the dance, and the energy and swirling patterns are so infectious. This is not music meant to be danced to, but music that so clearly reflects its roots in that very physicality.
Haydn never ceases to amaze and in his three symphonies, nos. 6, 7, and 8, the famous “morning, noon, and night” set, he bridges directly into the classical world yet gives solo work throughout the orchestra akin to a Baroque concerto grosso. One marvels at the inventiveness, and also the huge talent of the musicians in his orchestra for whom he wrote these stunning little masterpieces. We return to “Noon” to open our season.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a perfectly thrilling work for any concert goer right from the opening notes. The string orchestra is augmented by flutes, four oboes of different types, three Baroque trumpets, and drums, all making a grand, joyful noise, while the 30 voice chorus is joined by four brilliant soloists. All in all, just splendid!
It’s been about 50 years since I first began singing the bass solos and choruses of Bach's Weinachtsoratorium with the Louisville Bach Society, and the music still brings a rush of excitement many performances, concert halls, and years later.
Kansas City audiences have not had opportunity to relish Bach’s compilation of six cantatas in my memory, and I’ve been a part of the choral community here since 1982, other than the opening chorus on Kansas City Symphony Christmas concerts during some of my years with the KC Symphony Chorus.
Because the work was intended to be performed during six weekly services during Christmastide and Epiphany, a single performance becomes impractical because of length. Our performance, including cantatas I, II, and III, makes for an ideal program length.
The four nationally recognized soloists each bring a career-long emphasis as Baroque singers of note. Countertenor Jay Carter, long a national as well as local favorite, will be joined by soprano Lindsay Lang, and bass Jason Stiegerwalt, based in Louisville. Tenor Kyle Stegall, Des Moines, fills the role of Evangelist as well as aria soloist.
Bach’s operatic flashes are heard in the arias, each with the voice in duet or trio with an instrument(s), and each a splendid work of art.
Come, join the 50 superb musicians of Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and Musica Vocale in sharing Bach’s transcendent telling of the Christmas story!
In America, Bach’s cycle of cantatas for the Christmas season is often overlooked and overshadowed by performances of Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Gloria. While these works have earned their role in the canon of holiday performances, I’m always particularly happy when Bach’s Weinachtsoratorium comes up on my schedule. It acutely combines the playful exuberance of Vivaldi with the dramatic narrative of Handel, and all the while puts Bach’s thoughtful layers of craftsmanship and meaning on richest display. Each trek through the work, in performance or rehearsal, brings some new layer of meaning to my attention - and I look forward to each encounter with great anticipation.
My first experiences with the work were as an undergraduate in Arnold Epley’s choral literature survey classes, and I remember my excitement at hearing Bach’s “Gloria” (Ehre sei Gott from Cantata II) for the first time. As I learned the work as an ensemble singer with John Schaefer and the Trinity Choir of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral and made my first forays into the alto solos, Bach continued to delight. This last season I was fortunate to perform the work on tour as a soloist with Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan throughout North America, and I am thankful for the new insights that Masaaki and his wonderful ensemble helped awaken in me.
I am particularly thrilled to be performing the work alongside longtime friends at home in Kansas City, and to be a part of making sure that our community has an opportunity to engage with Bach’s masterpiece. I can’t wait to watch our local audiences beam exuberantly in the opening bars of Jauchzet frohlocket, bob their heads along with the jaunty bass and trumpet aria Grosser Herr, and enjoy a blissful moment of peace as the opening sinfonia of the second cantata returns accompanying a beautiful and familiar chorale.