Bach Cantata Vespers

Bach Cantata Vespers

The Bach Cantata Vespers series at St. James presents four Bach cantatas each season as the centerpiece of the Evening Prayer liturgy. Psalms, hymns, homily, and additional choral music all reflect the theme of the cantata. The St. James Bach Choir is joined by professional soloists and orchestra. Additional choral singers interested in singing in the Bach choir may contact Nancy Nickel about rehearsal requirements.

The commissioning of new motets and psalm settings is a unique aspect of the Bach Vespers. Seventeen choral motets have been written by composers including Paul Bouman, Carson Cooman, Richard Felciano, Frank Ferko, Randy Giles, Richard Hillert, Ron Jeffers, Robert Kyr, Joel Morris, Timothy Nickel, Richard Proulx, Carl Schalk, Kevin Walcyzk, and Christopher Wicks. If you are interested in funding the composition of a new motet for a Vespers next season in memory of an individual or in honor of a special birthday, anniversary, or other special event, please contact Nancy Nickel for more information.

The series is supported by the “Friends of Bach Vespers at St. James” and offerings received at the Vespers. Last season more than 130 individuals and organizations supported the series with an average attendance of 230 persons. Please consider becoming a Friend of Bach Vespers in making a contribution to support this unique ministry!






“Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit”
Sunday, Oct. 23rd, 2016 at 5:00pm
The 2016-2017 Bach Cantata 12th season at St. James begins with Bach’s Cantata #115, “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” (Make yourself ready, my spirit), for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, with flute, oboe d’amore, horn doubles chorales and SATB soloists.  Also, a new motet by Philadelphia composer Nancy Galbraith will be premiered.  Based on Psalm 133, the motet was commissioned for the Bach Vespers by St. James friend Jan Kjerne in memory of her father.

“Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”
Sunday, Dec. 4th, 2016 at 5:00pm
The season continues with Bach’s Cantata #61 “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (Now come, Savior of the Nations).  Composed for the First Sunday in Advent, this cantata was first performed on December 2, 1714, led by Bach.  The text was provided by Erdmann Neumeister, who quoted the Book of Revelation and framed his work by two hymn stanzas, the first from Martin Luther’s “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,” the main hymn for Advent with a melody based on Medieval chant, and the final one from Philipp Nicolai’s “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.”  The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor and bass), strings and continuo.  Dr. Paul Tegels of Pacific Lutheran University will be the guest organist.  A reception in the Pioneer Chapel follows the service.

“Weihnachtsoratorium, Part VI, BWV 248”
Sunday, Jan. 22nd, 2017 at 5:00pm
The BACH CANTATA VESPER on January 22nd will feature the final portion of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio written to be sung on the Feast of the Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas.  This festive conclusion to Bach’s six cantata Christmas Oratorio features a large orchestra of 3 trumpets, 2 oboes, tympani, and strings. Soloists Arwen Myers (soprano), Les Green (tenor), and Kevin Walsh (baritone) join the St. James Bach Choir.  The traditional candlelight Quempas Carol of Praetorius will also be sung. Music begins at 4:50pm.  A reception in the Pioneer Chapel follows the service.

“Johannespassion, BWV 245”
Good Friday, Apr. 14th, 2017 at 7:00pm
The season continues with selections from the St. John Passion, BWV 245 “Johannespassion” (St. John Passion).  The St. James Bach Choir will be joined by a professional orchestra of strings, oboes, flute, and portative organ, and by soloists, Arwen Myers (soprano), Laura Thorson (alto), Les Green (tenor), and Kevin Walsh (baritone) with choruses, arias, and chorales from Bach’s great St. John PassionPlease click here to download the poster for this Good Friday Bach Vesper.

“Himmelfahrtsoratorium, BWV 11”
Sunday, May 21st, 2017 at 5:00pm
This final Bach Vesper of the 2016-17 season will feature the festive Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11 “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen” (Praise God in his riches) with full orchestra of three trumpets, two oboes, two flutes, and strings joining St. James Bach choir, and soloists Catherine Van der Salm (soprano); Laura Thoreson (alto); Les Green (tenor); and Kevin Walsh (bass).  The Ascension Oratorio appeared in the same liturgical year as the Christmas Oratorio.  The text for the Ascension Oratorio, a compilation of several biblical sources, free poetry and chorales, was presumably written by Picander, who had written the libretti for the St. Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio, among others.  It follows the story of the Ascension as told in Luke, Mark and the Acts of the Apostles.  The biblical words are narrated by the tenor as the Evangelist.  In the third recitative two men are quoted, for this quotation tenor and bass both sing in an Arioso.  Part I, which tells of the Ascension, is concluded by the fourth stanza of Johann Rist’s hymn “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” in a four-part setting.  Part II reflects the reaction of the disciples.  The closing chorale on the seventh stanza of Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer’s “Gott fähret auf gen Himmel” is set as a chorale fantasia.  While the music for the narration and the first chorale were new compositions in 1735, Bach based the framing choral movements and the two arias on earlier compositions. He used the model for the alto aria again much later for the Agnus Dei of his Mass in B minor.

Also to be sung is the motet “Go Into All the World” by Richard Hillert, commissioned for the Bach Vespers in 2007 by Bob and Gerry Grover in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.  Dr. Walter Krueger of Concordia University will be the guest organist.

Free will offering.


NOTE:  For other upcoming musical events in the Portland area, please visit WEKA or Western Early Keyboard Association at