We had another intense evening of recording tonight, and we’re about two-thirds of the way through the St. John Passion. With the excellent guidance and exacting standards of our tonmeister, Martha de Francisco, and the fearless and passionate direction of our conductor par excellence, Greg Funfgeld, our interpretation of this beautiful music continues to evolve and mature. Part of the challenge is to imagine the lead-ins that Charles Daniels recorded this past Sunday before returning home to the UK, but I suspect the sound memories of his singing remain steadfast in our minds. We also have the assistance of two close friends in the control room: Rosa Lamoreaux, our magnificent soprano soloist, and Charlotte Mattax Moersch, our peerless continuo organist, have been offering helpful and insightful suggestions as we tweak our singing and playing for the recording. Incredibly, an atmosphere of patient calm has pervaded in these sessions, and choir and orchestra alike are stretching the edges of our talents in service of this beautiful piece of music. This is due, in no small measure to the supportive leadership of Greg, and the wonderful nurture of Martha, about whom the great English conductor, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, writes: “Martha is one of the very best freelance recording producers in her field, someone who is both intensely musical and professionally of the highest competence, and, perhaps most importantly, psychologically astute and always ready to be a caring and supportive presence to all her recording artists and engineers.” Hear, hear!
The St. John Passion received its first performance in America by a precursor to The Choir: The Bethlehem Choral Union, under the baton of our choir’s founder, J. Fred Wolle, on June 5, 1888 (one of many firsts for Bach in America, here in Bethlehem). The Choir knows and loves this piece, and I think our ardor shows in performances, and hopefully will be tangible on the recording. For tonight, though, we rest, and begin anew tomorrow evening, tackling some of the most challenging pieces towards the end of this towering masterwork. Ruht wohl!