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 the Church Office 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 the Church Office 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!




Did you enjoy the music on Reformation Sunday? That was just a taste of the 2018-2019 season celebrating the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Mark your calendars now for what we predict will be a spectacular series, directed by St. James Cantor Joseph Z. Pettit. The upcoming Vespers season includes:

Second Sunday of Advent, December 9th, 2018, 5:00pm
Cantata 30: “Freue dich, erlöste Schar (Rejoice, Redeemed Flock)”
Motet: “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake, Awake)”, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
The first Cantata of the season debuts on the second Sunday in Advent. Freue dich, erlöste Schar (Rejoice, Redeemed Flock). Bach composed it for the Feast of John the Baptist in 1738. He scored the Cantata for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), a four-part choir, two traversos, two oboes, oboe d’amore, concertato violin, accompanying strings (two violin parts and one viola part) and basso continuo. The Cantata features soloists Julie Kangas, soprano, Kathryn Weld, alto, Steven Arends, tenor and Barry Johnson, baritone, Scott Swope, baritone as well as the St. James Bach Choir. The Cantata is in twelve movements, divided in two parts, to be performed before and after the sermon. The Vesper service also includes a motet by Bach’s fifth son, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Motet Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake, Awake). A reception and Holiday Arts & Craft sale follows the Vesper service in the Pioneer Chapel.

NOTE: Bach Cantata Vesper RESCHEDULED Sunday, March 3rd, 5:00pm. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the February 3rd Bach Cantata Vesper has been rescheduled for Sunday, March 3rd. We look forward to seeing you then!

Please join us for a special Open House prior to the Cantata. Starting at 4:00pm, we welcome residents of the Ladd Tower Apartments for a wine and cheese reception.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Sunday, March 3rd, 2019, 5:00pm
Cantata 125: “Mit Fried’ und Freud’ ich fahr’ dahin (With Peace and Joy I Depart…)”
If you missed the December Bach Cantata Vesper, don’t miss this one! It was a spectacular debut for Cantor Joseph Z. Pettit and the St. James Bach Choir and Orchestra. The text in this Cantata is based on Martin Luther’s German translation of Simeon’s Canticle (Luke 2:29-32). Originally called the Feast of the Purification of Mary, the Cantata deals with the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple, and Simeon’s response. Bach creates a most captivating, twenty-minute plus work opening with two superior movements, a fantasia chorus and alto aria using dance forms, respectively, of a pastorale and a sarabande for this 1725 Purification work.

Good Friday, April 19th, 2019, 7:00pm
Excerpts from Johannes-Passion BWV 245: “Feast of Pentecost” …
… excerpts from the St. John Passion of J. S. Bach with St. James Bach Choir and Orchestra, featuring five St. James soloists along with special guests Lisa Neher, mezzosoprano, and Richard Zeller, bass.

Pentecost, June 9th, 2019, 5:00pm
Cantata 172: “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Ring Forth, You Songs, Sound, You Strings!)”

More information will be posted as it becomes available.








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