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Lunch with Bach

The best part of the Washington Bach Consort's season most years is their series of free noontime cantatas, on the first Tuesday of every month. Yesterday, I had the rare chance to attend one of those concerts, at the Church of the Epiphany downtown, in the company of the elementary school class of Master Ionarts. Few will probably believe that this trip was not planned at my instigation (really, it was not), but when the note came home about it I volunteered to help make it happen. Wisely, the children were seated in the balcony, where they could move around to the music a little and ask the occasional question without bothering serious listeners. In the few minutes before the concert, we explained the organ and its pipes, the other instruments, the voices. When it was time for the music, the kids were attentive (even through conductor J. Reilly Lewis's inevitable lectures), although the slow movements lulled some of them to sleep.

The brief program opened with organist Marvin Mills playing Bach's organ adaptation of Vivaldi's D minor concerto (BWV 596). Opening with a flutey registration, the performance had a dreamy Largo movement, a pastoral barcarolle, but there were so many adjustments to the tempo that much of the work lost its rhythmic flow. Advent came early with the cantata on offer, Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn (BWV 132), created for performance on December 22, 1715. The text by Salomo Franck, court poet of Weimar, makes references to the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, relating to John the Baptist (mostly over the heads of the younger members of the audience). Highlights of the performance included the mellow oboe of Meg Owens, beautifully scaled to the demure soprano of Kate Vetter Cain, and the mellifluous legato of mezzo-soprano Barbara Hollinshead, paired with a lovely obbligato from violinist June Huang.

The next noontime cantata presented by the Washington Bach Consort will be Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63 (December 1, 12:10 pm). All of these cantatas are free of charge and open to the public, at the Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St. NW).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These concerts are a true D.C. gem. But please note that serious listeners sit in the balcony too!