Much wonderful music is on tap for the first Bach at Noon, this coming Tuesday, September, 13th, beginning at 12:10 at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem. Savvy attendees know to arrive very early to get a good seat – we frequently have near-capacity audiences. We kick off the season of Bethlehem performances with a concert in two parts. The first will feature one of our excellent keyboard artists, Charlotte Mattax Moersch, in Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, BWV 1053. Charlotte will be playing the concertos for solo harpsichord (Bach wrote several for multiple harpsichords, as well) over the course of the three Bach at Noon concerts this fall. They are keyboard tours de force, and Charlotte plays this music with a lot of panache. Two of them are in major keys, distinctly regal affairs, and the second, written in D Minor, is a real barn-burner. On tap for Tuesday, the E Major is chamber music at its most charming, and it will be a delight to hear Charlotte and our string players survey this exciting repertoire.
The second half of the program will include some repertoire from our recent outing to New York. We will sing Maurice Duruflé’s lovely setting of Ubi Caritas, which was the piece that began every concert in the marathon of concerts this past Friday. Duruflé sets the Gregorian chant melody of the same text (“where true charity and love are, God himself is there”) very simply, with a chordal accompaniment that characterizes all of his music: very impressionistic and sublimely crafted. We will sing two movements of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, Op. 48, which was sung by the massed choir at our closing concert on Friday. Fauré sets the Requiem text in a manner that Greg characterized as “not afraid to go straight to heaven.” We’ll be singing a setting of Robert Lowry’s classic hymn, Shall We Gather At the River, set by William Hawley, who puts it into a thick, eight-part texture, with vivid text-painting. The women of the choir will sing a lovely setting of an Emily Dickinson text by Craig Hella Johnson, the conductor of the well-regarded Texas choir, Conspirare. The men will sing a moving setting of the old hymn, O Perfect Love, arranged for cello, piano and men’s voices by Paul Sjolund. We’ll also sing Randall Thompson’s Choose Something Like a Star, which is a transcendent setting of a Robert Frost poem.
Most of the repertoire, besides the two French composers, were part of the concert of American composers we gave at St. Paul’s Chapel on Friday. When we first started the repertoire in our summer rehearsals, I couldn’t have anticipated just how very well they matched the environment at St. Paul’s, which has become an iconic element of the geography of 9/11. This week, individuals were given the opportunity to write memorial messages on white ribbons, and then to tie the ribbons to the fence that surrounds the chapel. The fence is now covered with these ribbons. Inside, there are banners and flags on the rear gallery from the rescue and recovery efforts that followed the tragedy. There is also memorabilia from the firefighters and first responders on display, and the space has become both a shrine and a place in which daily prayers are offered for peace. In situ, this music was powerfully affecting – individuals continued to walk around the chapel and view the displays while we sang, and many of them stopped to listen. Greg’s programming of this music was absolutely masterful, and I’m glad we’ll be able to share some of that magic with our beloved hometown audience. Please join us for what promises to be a wonderful hour of music.