The English tenor, Charles Daniels, is making his Festival debut this year, and he joined us in rehearsal last night for the first time. I’ve long admired his singing on recordings, but they don’t do him justice: he has a beautifully lyrical voice, an impeccable sense of rhythm, and a level of expression that just will stun listeners (many of us at last night’s rehearsal have been speaking in hushed, reverent tones about Mr. Daniels). He’ll be singing the role of evangelist in the St. John Passion, some of the most demanding music for tenor in the entire repertory. The soloists this year are like an international dream team – singers from the UK, Canada, and the States will be joining The Choir for an amazing series of performances – it would be hard to overstate our excitement in offering this music to our beloved audience.
The Festival has long been the occasion for engaging scholarship on Bach’s music and influence. We’ve been privileged to have such luminaries as Michael Marissen, Christoph Wolff, and George Stauffer speak in recent years. The American Bach Society held their biennial meeting in conjunction with the 2008 Festival. Likewise, our program annotator, the estimable Dr. Robin Leaver, has contributed much to the world’s understanding of the Kapellmeister.
Lovers of Bach’s music should definitely plan on attending the Distinguished Scholar Lecture on Friday afternoon at 2 pm, in the Black Box Theatre at the Zoellner Arts Center on Lehigh’s campus. As I alluded yesterday, Dr. Christoph Wolff has been at the forefront of Bach scholarship for several decades. His biography of Bach is the gold standard, and his knowledge and affinity for Bach’s music is unsurpassed. His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious and the opportunity to hear him speak about the St. John Passion is a rare treat, not to be missed!
Dr. Larry Lipkis, Composer in Residence at Moravian College, founding member of the Baltimore Consort, and all-around musical raconteur will be giving an informal talk at the Buffet Dinner in the Asa Packer Room at the Lehigh Campus Center at 6 pm on Friday evening. Dr. Lipkis is an engaging and erudite speaker and he always has much of interest to say about the music for the Festival. (I will never forget his lecture on the styles of classical oratory employed in the St. Matthew Passion. What sounds like an extremely esoteric topic was made both deeply interesting and amusing through the use of contemporary campaign speech excerpts.) Information about both of these events is available on The Choir’s website.
I’ll be posting about tonight’s rehearsal, and some of the more enjoyable and unique Festival traditions tomorrow. Please stay tuned!