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!


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…)”
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, mezzo-soprano, and Richard Zeller, bass.

Pentecost Sunday, June 9th, 2019, 5:00pm
Bach BWV 172 Erschallet, ihr Lieder in C Major and Zelenka ZWV 108 Magnificat in D Major
… Bach and Zelenka for Pentecost Vespers …
On Sunday, June 9th, the Bach Choir and Orchestra will present two festive works in celebration of Pentecost. J. S. Bach’s Cantata 172 Erschallet, ihr Lieder! Erklinget, ihr Saiten! is a joyful work calling upon all instruments to celebrate the establishment of the Spirit among us. This cantata requires a larger than usual orchestra, with additional strings, as well as three trumpets and timpani. Composed for this same combination of instruments is Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Magnificat, the appointed canticle for vespers. Zelenka was a contemporary of Bach, and was nearly as prolific and renowned as Bach in his lifetime. This triumphal service rounds out the 2018-2019 season of Baroque beauty in worship at St. James. Our brilliant soloists for the Bach include soprano Julie Kangas, mezzo-soprano Lisa Neher, and bass Richard Zeller. The Zelenka soloist is rising star Elsa Dougherty, our own mezzo Choral Scholar. In just this last season, during her junior year in college, Elsa has won a number of awards and recognitions, sung major roles, and taken her place among the city’s finest singers. Lilli Vellom, our soprano Choral Scholar, will conduct the Zelenka Magnificat. Lilli has extensive experience in orchestral conducting, including an international masterclass with the Moravian Philharmonic in Prague last summer. It is a privilege for St. James to nurture Lilli and Elsa and all our young musicians in their fledgling careers.

NOTE: With Cantor Joe Pettit’s resignation, Council has agreed to suspend the Bach Cantata Vesper series for the coming year (2019-2020) during the Interim Choir Director and Organist period. Discussion has begun on redefining the Bach Cantata Vespers, including that it expands beyond St. James. The Vespers would continue to be at St. James. Don Nielsen and Nancy Nickel are serving as advisors.

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