With last night’s rehearsal, we’ve begun a big week for our Educational Outreach initiatives. Over 100 students from four regional choirs joined the choir in rehearsal on repertoire for our upcoming Family Concert (which is quickly approaching, on Sunday, February 28th, beginning at 3 pm at the Zoellner Arts Center of Lehigh University). In a fine bit of programming, this year’s performance will showcase the talent of the Berks Classical Chorus, the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and singers from the Nazareth Area High School and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts. They will each sing a piece individually, and all four will unite with the Bach Choir for three selections: the wonderful Händel Coronation Anthem, Zadok the Priest, Randall Thompson’s massive 8-part a capella masterpiece (which will be sung in the round, encircling the audience in the lovely sound of 200 massed singers), Ye Shall Have a Song, and concluding with the Gloria and Et in terra pax from the Mass in B-Minor.
We began the rehearsal with the Händel, which is always a treat. There’s a lengthy orchestral introduction, followed by an extremely rapturous entrance by the singers (this piece is currently featured in an insurance ad getting lots of play). We’ll do it better – it’s an exceedingly majestic moment. Last night there was an expectant look on the faces of all the student singers, and when the singing began it was a very pleasingly plump sound (and a lot louder than we’re accustomed from the Bach Choir). I quipped to Greg Funfgeld that I wouldn’t mind it at all if at least some of them stuck around! We practiced the Thompson in the round in two rows stretching the entire expanse of our rehearsal space, and it is sounding marvelous. Finally, the Bach movements were extremely well-done, a testament to the exceptional preparation done by the directors of our collaborating choirs.
The looks on the faces of many of the young singers were very dear – not everyone will react to singing this music in a uniform way, but many were clearly having the time of their lives. It’s indescribably rewarding to share in the joy of musical performance with young people, and I’m so grateful they have this opportunity. Kudos to those directors for prioritizing choral music at the highest levels, for the students, themselves, for sticking with a discipline that doesn’t receive much acclaim in our wider culture, and to their parents for supporting them in their endeavors. I can hardly think of a better introduction to the choral art than our Family Concert, which will roll in at about an hour’s length, and will include Greg’s always-captivating introductions to the pieces. Children (of all ages) are guaranteed a thrill from this program.
Also on tap this week are two days of Bach to School performances. We’ll be visiting schools in Easton, Bethlehem, and Saucon Valley, and offering our hour-long educational outreach program. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve taken a couple days off from work to be able to sing (and I’m taking my camera – I hope to document our efforts), and these experiences are always a joy to bring Bach’s incomparable music, in live performances, to audiences who otherwise wouldn’t hear it. Please stay tuned to the blog for updates this week about our work, and, if you haven’t already, order your tickets for the Family Concert. Bring your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors’ children and grandchildren. Tickets are cheap, and the value of the experience is inestimable.