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The Worcester Chorus: Bach B Minor Mass

Sunday, May 5, 2024 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Annual Fletcher Family Concert at Mechanics Hall

Adult: $45-$55
Student: $17.50
Youth: $7.50

Directed by Chris Shepard, The Worcester Chorus is one of America’s oldest and longest-running choral ensembles. Their long-awaited performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor will take place on stage at historic Mechanics Hall. The Worcester Chorus will be joined by the Orchestra of Emmanuel Music and vocal soloists. Ticket holders are invited to join us for a pre-concert talk.

Pre-Concert Talk
Program Notes

Richard Giarusso

Dean of Academic Affairs at New England Conservatory

3:00 PM in Washburn Hall. Free and open to all ticket holders.

Richard Giarusso is a teacher, performer, speaker, and writer who seeks to build meaning, relationship, and understanding through the study, contemplation, and performance of music. With practical and scholarly experience in a wide range of repertoire, he seeks to engage audiences of diverse backgrounds and interests in dynamic conversations about music and its relationship to history, culture, and creativity.

He has a particular interest in interdisciplinary dialogues about music and the arts and takes great pleasure in crafting experiences that stimulate creative thinking and critical awareness among participants. An award-winning teacher and visionary academic leader, he is Dean of Academic Affairs at the New England Conservatory and was previously Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Musicology at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Also active as a conductor and singer, he served as music director of the Georgetown Chorale (DC), the Voce Chamber Singers (VA), and the Maryland Choral Society, and he maintains a career as a soloist and ensemble musician throughout the Atlantic corridor.

He has a particular affinity for the vocal works of J.S. Bach, having sung for many years as a member of the Washington Bach Consort, where he also appeared as a guest conductor. Trained at Williams and Harvard, Richard is a life-long learner shaped by the guidance and inspiration of exceptional mentors who modeled the patterns of inquiry and exploration that he seeks to uphold in his life and work. His non-musical interests include architecture and interior design, traditional French cookery, woodworking, Anglican spirituality, and the beauties of the natural world. He resides in Acton, Massachusetts, with his wife, Allison, his eight-year-old son, Adrian, and three very curious cats.

PROGRAM NOTES | Bach, Mass in B Minor

Bach’s truly monumental Mass in B Minor is the perfect setting for today’s announcement of an equally monumental project, THE COMPLETE BACH. As you will hear from the stage today, we will all embark upon an extraordinary journey beginning in the fall—twelve concerts each year for the next eleven years, presenting all of Bach’s works live for the first time since Bach himself performed all the works, in a staggering one hundred thirty-two concerts. We finish our Bach pilgrimage on the Leipzig master’s 350th birthday, an almost inconceivable undertaking.

There are only a handful of figures in any of the arts who merit such a survey of their works. It’s not that Bach’s music is always better than any other composer’s, or even that all of his music is more appealing than any other composer’s—although some of certainly think that both those things are true! In fact, although Bach’s output is capacious, other Baroque composers (particularly his colleague Telemann) wrote more pieces, and the works of composers like Handel and Vivaldi were better known at the time. No—with historical figures like Bach or Shakespeare or more contemporary writers like Ibsen or August Wilson, the point is that their works somehow “contain multitudes”, and cry out to be experienced in a cycle of their own.

In Bach’s case, being “encyclopedic” was at the core of his identity as a man and a composer. Although we see him as the absolute acme of western composers, he saw himself simply as the inheritor of a rich and storied “family business”. For his forbears and members of his own generation, there were countless Bach musicians throughout northern Germany; in fact, they were so ubiquitous as church musicians that one church leader was quoted as saying, when his organist resigned, that he would have to “go out and get another Bach”! Bach drew together a large archive of works by his relatives, a fact that is deeply poignant in the light of both of his parents’ deaths before Bach was ten years old. Not only did he ultimately create a huge family of his own (famously siring twenty children), but he also became the steward of the music of his family as well—the once-orphan becoming the patriarch of the Bach tribe in every sense.

Just as Bach was something of a musical hoarder in bringing together his family’s musical written musical legacy, he also collected and learned a great deal of music by composers of his own time as well. With his extraordinary ability to assimilate others’ musical styles into a unique musical voice of his own, this gives his entire musical output the quality of a musical encyclopedia, exploring all of the musical styles then known in Europe, fusing together the distinctive national styles of Germany, Italy, and France. Particularly as he grew older, much of this “encyclopedic tendency” became more prominent and more formalized. He compiled several collections of works, such as the Art of the Fugue, which explored all the possibilities inherent in fugal writing; the Clavier-Übung, his great cycle of keyboard works both sacred and secular; and the Christmas Oratorio—just like the B Minor Mass, largely a collection of movement parodied from earlier cantatas. In this, Bach was squarely a product of his age: the urge to draw together large collections and explain large patterns was part of the Baroque mindset, reflected especially in the sciences, mathematics and philosophy of the era.

Which brings us to today. Over the next eleven years, THE COMPLETE BACH will celebrate Bach’s universe, and that entire universe is never more apparent than in his Mass in B Minor. His compositional plan for the work ranks among the most ambitious in the history of western music: he set out to catalogue all the vocal styles that were available to that point, from the Renaissance polyphony of the Credo in unum Deum and Confiteor in unum baptisma (including references to the even earlier Gregorian chants) to the brilliant Baroque stile concertato writing of the Gloria in excelsis and Et resurrexit, to the intimations of the newly fashionable style galant in the first duet, Christe eleison and the sunny Domine Deus duet. In fact, one of the few genres of music that is not present in the Mass is the genre for which he was perhaps the greatest single composer—the chorale-prelude. In that distinctly Lutheran form, a composer uses a hymn tune as the starting point, weaving a new melody around the pre-existing one. (Think Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, for example.) As the Mass in B Minor is Bach’s homage to the eternal, pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Mass, it is possible that he wished to keep the streams separate—but don’t worry, you will hear countless chorale-preludes in the years to come, between the Bach’s cantatas and his organ works.

For now, mark March 21, 2035 on your calendars. On that day, we will all reconvene here again for another performance of the Mass in B Minor, closing out our mighty Bach performance cycle and celebrating his 350th birthday in style.

Chris Shepard, 2024

Featured Performers

Orchestra of Emmanuel Music
Susan Consoli, soprano
Kendra Colton, soprano
Krista River, alto
Matthew Anderson, tenor
David McFerrin, bass

Through its performing, teaching, mentoring, and scholarly activities, Emmanuel Music occupies a unique niche: a living laboratory for the music of J. S. Bach. Emmanuel Music finds new and creative ways for audiences and musicians to engage with the artistic, spiritual, and humanistic aspects of the music of J. S. Bach, the cornerstone of our musical output for our first fifty years.

We seek to make Bach’s music deeply relevant to our current lives, including highlighting the connections between Bach and artists that he influenced, especially creative voices that have been marginalized in our society.

Building on the symbiotic partnership between an arts nonprofit and an intellectually curious and open-minded religious community, Emmanuel Music further embraces Bach’s sacred music, especially his cantatas, as opportunities to explore the transcendent aspects of our shared human experience.

By embracing a new mission and strategic plan in March 2021, Emmanuel Music asserts its role as an essential musical, humanistic, intellectual force for participatory engagement in its local community, and around the world through its online programming.

American Soprano, Susan Consoli, originally from Groveland, MA, has led an active and versatile career throughout the United States and abroad.

She has worked under such notable conductors as Grant Llewellyn, Christopher Hogwood, Harry Christophers, Bruno Weil, Laurence Cummings, John Finney and Paul Goodwin. Additional collaborators include; Chen Shi-Zheng, Tero Saarinen, Betsi Graves, Carson Cooman, Euan Tait, Peter Child, David Patterson and John Harbison (Boston Premiere) A Clear Midnight, Vocalism and Jazzsinger songs. Festivals include: Festival CLASSIQUE au vert Paris, Boston Early Music Festival, Movimentos Internationales TanzFestival, LAOKOON Festival, Hamburg, Ribeauvillé Festival de Musique Ancienne, Carmel Bach Festival, Rome Opera Festival, Great Waters Music Festival, CT Early Music Festival, Nantucket Arts Festival, Bachfest Leipzig, Marlboro Music Festival. Appearances with Boston Camerata & Tero Saarinen Dance Company include: Borrowed Light in Paris Théâtre National de Chaillot, Berlin, Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Oulu, Tampere, An American Vocalist, Saw ye my hero in Paris, Travellin’ Home in Ribeauvillé.

Ms. Consoli made her Carnegie Hall debut performing Handel Messiah under the direction of Christopher Shepard. Her recordings include Handel & Haydn Society All is Bright Avie Records and David Patterson Loon’s Tail Flashing Albany Records. Upcoming solo engagements include: “J’Adore Fauré” with the Hartford Chorale under the direction of Jack Anthony Pott, Bachfest Leipzig 2024 with Emmanuel Music, Bach St. Matthew Passion with Emmanuel Music both under the direction of Ryan Turner, and Mozart Solemn Vespers with New England Classical Singers. Ms. Consoli is pleased to be returning to the Worcester Chorus under the direction of Chris Shepard.

American soprano Kendra Colton is a versatile singer who performs repertoire from Baroque opera and oratorio to contemporary music. Trained in the United States and Europe she appears regularly in solo recital, in chamber music concerts, and with symphony orchestras. She has sung with conductors Bernard Haitink, Christopher Hogwood, Sir Neville Marriner, Nicholas McGegan, Seiji Ozawa, and Helmuth Rilling and with presenters across the country including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic to name a few. Her singing has been described as “touchingly musical” in the NY Times and “skillful and imaginative” in the Boston Globe. Opera News wrote that Ms. Colton is a soprano who sings “with beauty, brightness and poise”.

Ms. Colton has developed a niche for herself in the oratorio and sacred works of Bach (recording 6 CDs of cantata arias and duets), Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Acclaimed not only for her performances of Handel and Mozart operas, she is also recognized as an interpreter of contemporary chamber music and has premiered and recorded numerous works including a release of vocal selections by John Harbison called Late Air. Her complete discography can be found on Spotify. Works specifically composed for her voice are: Finite Infinity for soprano, oboe, and piano by Peter Child; Uncertainty is Beautiful for soprano and chamber orchestra and The Reckless Heart for soprano and piano by Andy Vores.

In addition to her performing schedule, Ms. Colton commutes from Boston to teach at Oberlin College Conservatory in Ohio. In her free time she is an avid hiker and has a life goal to visit all of the National Parks.

Mezzo-soprano Krista River has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, the Cape Cod Symphony, the Santa Fe Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society, the Florida Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, Odyssey Opera, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and Boston Baroque.

Winner of the 2004 Concert Artists Guild International Competition and a 2007 Sullivan Foundation grant recipient, her opera roles include Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Sesto in La clemenza di Tito, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Anna in Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring, and the title role in Handel’s Xerxes.

Other notable performances include the International Water and Life Festival in Qinghai, China, and recitals at Jordan Hall in Boston and the Asociación Nacional de Conciertos in Panama City, Panama. For Ms. River’s New York Recital debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the New York Times praised her “shimmering voice…with the virtuosity of a violinist and the expressivity of an actress.” She resides in Boston and is a regular soloist with Emmanuel Music’s renowned Bach Cantata Series.

Matthew Anderson has been praised for the warm tenor voice and polished musicality he brings to oratorio, opera, and musical theater. He has appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival as a soloist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and at the Carmel Bach Festival, where he was featured as a 2010 Virginia Best Adams Fellow and a 2011 festival soloist in Bach’s St. John Passion. Mr. Anderson has twice won prizes in the American Bach Society Competition, and received second prize in the Oratorio Society of New York Solo Competition.

Recent performances from his varied repertoire include Stravinsky’s Renard at Tanglewood and the Mostly Mozart Festival with the Mark Morris Dance Group; John Harbison’s Winter’s Tale with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Haydn’s Creation with Emmanuel Music; Bach’s St. John Passion (Evangelist) at Princeton University, Boston University, and the University of Chicago; several works by Benjamin Britten (Serenade, Saint Nicolas, and Cantata Misericordium); John Austin’s new opera Heloise and Abelard at Harvard University; and Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall.

Also recognized as a gifted performer of the American songbook, Mr. Anderson has won high praise for his performances with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops in Carousel (as Mr. Snow), “A Richard Rogers Celebration”, and “An Evening of Cole Porter”. Mr. Anderson spent two seasons as a vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and was a Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellow with Emmanuel. He studied classics at Harvard and voice at the New England Conservatory.

Hailed for his “voice of seductive beauty” (Miami Herald), baritone David McFerrin has won critical acclaim in a variety of genres. His opera credits include Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, the Rossini Festival in Germany, and numerous roles with Boston Lyric Opera and other local companies. As concert soloist he has sung with the Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Handel and Haydn Society, and in recital at the Caramoor, Ravinia, and Marlboro Festivals. He was runner-up in the Oratorio Society of New York’s 2016 Lyndon Woodside Solo Competition, the premier US contest for this repertoire. David is also a member of the renaissance vocal ensemble Blue Heron, winners of the 2018 Gramophone award for Best Early Music Album.

Recent performance highlights have included the role of Thoas in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride with Boston Baroque; Monteverdi’s dramatic scena Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with American Bach Soloists in the Bay Area; and two turns as Lucifer/the Devil––one in a filmed production of Handel’s La Resurrezione with Emmanuel Music and the other in Stravinsky’s “A Soldier’s Tale” with Aston Magna Music Festival.

David lives in Natick, Massachusetts with his wife Erin Doherty, an architectural historian and preservation planner; their daughter Fiona; and black lab Holly.

Music Worcester thanks the following sponsors of this presentation:

Mechanics Hall logo
Mass Cultural Council logo
Mass Cultural Council logo

John Zeugner, Telegram & Gazette

In any event, there was, as always, in Music Worcester’s presentation of Handel’s Messiah, a soul healing, community-building moment, for all listeners. The stupendous sounds of that music in the soft blue-white silk of Mechanics Hall, amid dark almost indistinguishable portraits on high, is surely tonic to overcome the despicable antics of our national politics.


Sunday, May 5, 2024
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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