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!
The four Bach Cantata Vespers of the 2012-2013 series include:
October 28, Cantata 8
Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben (Dearest God, when shall I die?)
for strings, organ, oboe d’amore, I and II, French horn, and flute with four soloists and choir. No morbid music here, despite the impression the title may suggest. Its lilting lyrical 12/8 opening movement feels like a Schubert waltz. Repeated bell-like flute tones introduce the flute as the instrument to carry a virtuosic role throughout the cantata. A jolly exuberant bass aria evokes not a fear of death, but a welcome eagerness to be with Christ.
December 16, Christmas Oratorio, Part II
This second of six cantatas of Bach’s well known Christmas Oratorio was composed for the secondday of Christmas and focuses on the story of the shepherds. Its opening sinfonia features pairs of oboes and English horns that set the pastoral tone for this cantata.
April 21, Cantata 31
Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret! (The heavens laugh, the earth rejoices)
This festive cantata, one of Bach’s two surviving Easter Day cantatas, was written when he was just 30 years old. Its tour de force orchestration includes three trumpets, tympani, three oboes, oboe da caccia, strings, and organ, a five part choir and four soloists.
June 2, Cantata 18
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (As the rain and snow fall from heaven)
The performance of this cantata based on the parable of the sower coincides with St. James’ community garden ”Blessing of the Fields.” Its unique instrumentation is striking with just four violas, cello, and organ joining four soloists and choir.
All Bach Cantata Vespers begin at 5:00pm; pre-service music begins at 4:50pm. For driving and parking directions, please click here.