Welcome to the Washington Bach Consort

The Nation’s Premier Baroque Chorus and Orchestra

Upcoming Events

Brandenburg ConcertosNov 11 2007 3:00P Harman Center for the Arts
Noontime Cantata Dec 4 2007 12:10P Church of the Epiphany
30th Anniversary CelebrationDec 7 2007 6:00PMansion at Strathmore
Christmas OratorioDec 7 2007 8:00P Music Center at Strathmore

Friday, November 9, 2007

Brandenburg Tix Hot Item

Washington's period instrument/ authentic pitch premier of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos is generating a lot of excitement. Tickets are moving so fast, they literally set the Bach Consort office on fire. This is a picture of Thursday's fire alarm--note the evacuation of the entire 1220 19th Street NW building! Patrons still wishing to purchase tickets should arrive at the Harman Center at 2pm on Sunday.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cecilia Porter's Review of the B Minor Mass Performance

The Washington Post
Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why does Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B Minor still draw large audiences, who place it first above all other sacred music? It's anything but practical with its Latin text and tremendous scope in an age preferring more "accessible" church music with guitar or piano accompaniment instead of an organ, for example. And it is stupendously difficult to perform, challenging the stamina of both voices and instruments with long chains of winding melodic lines set in intricate contrapuntal textures that leave little time to breathe.

Yet the concert hall at Strathmore had few empty seats Wednesday when the Washington Bach Consort, conducted by J. Reilly Lewis (without a score), performed the Mass. And it was a night to remember: From start to finish, this chamber-size group of choristers, orchestra and soloists -- both vocal and instrumental -- made that leap beyond human abilities, which Bach demands, with compassion, tonal beauty and a sense of inevitable momentum. After a rather muted "Kyrie," the performers seemed to adjust to the hall's expansive acoustics, the musicmaking so magnificent and moving that the audience took a second to gasp at the end before its cheers.

This piece centers on the chorus, Lewis leading this premier ensemble (celebrating its 30th season) from peak to peak, as in the solemn and imploring "Qui tollis." All the instrumental soloists were superb on their devilishly demanding period instruments, as were the sensitive vocal soloists: sopranos Dominique Labelle and Kendra Colton, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone William Sharp. Inserting an intermission after the "Kyrie" and "Gloria" worked well since Bach composed them two decades before the other movements -- though the piece also works effectively when performed straight through. After intermission, Lewis slipped in a rarity, a fetching instrumental introduction to the "Credo": a hymn tune setting by Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel.

Artist Spotlight-Rebecca Kellerman Petretta

Lyric Soprano Rebecca Kellerman Petretta has performed for audiences throughout the metropolitan area as a soloist and chorister in works ranging from medieval to 21st Century. Her opera roles have included Ino in Handel’s Semele, Mrs. Gobineau in Menotti’s The Medium, Nella in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors and various partial roles. As an oratorio singer, she has been soloist in performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, Faure’s Requiem, Bach’s St. John and St. Luke Passions, numerous Bach cantatas, and many other oratorios.

Growing up in a central Pennsylvania family of musicians, Rebecca ended up being the only singer in a house full of instrumentalists. Her parents and older brother were all public school music teachers. Having played flute, piano, saxophone, and cello is high school, Rebecca put down the instruments when she fell in love with choral singing at Shenandoah University where she sung under the baton of Robert Shafer. After finishing her master’s degree, she worked as an accreditation coordinator for The National Association of Schools of Music, Dance, Theatre and Art and Design, before becoming a public school teacher in Jefferson County, WV.

She now teaches voice lessons during the day and performs in the evenings. She commutes to Washington from Charles Town, WV (near Harpers Ferry), where she and her family live in a 250 year old log home just a short walk from many of the area’s historic landmarks. In addition to living in such a historic community (Charles Town was founded by George Washington’s brother, Charles, plus many sites figure prominently in the life of local Civil War figure John Brown), Rebecca loves the area’s recreational activities: two rivers for canoeing, plenty of trails to hike and bike, and Jefferson rock—the view that inspired Thomas Jefferson to declare the scene “worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chorus Auditions to be Held September 8

The Washington Bach Consort is holding chorus auditions on Saturday, September 8. Repertoire for this 30th anniversary season includes the B-Minor Mass, Christmas Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion, six cantatas, and the Mass in A Major. For more information, contact Melissa Hilker at mhilker@bachconsort.org or 202.730.4173.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Interview with J. Reilly Lewis

Robert Massey: You founded the Consort with a group of friends that loved performing. No one was paid and the entire operation was housed in your mother’s basement. Now the fully-professional ensemble includes the best singers and period instrumentalists in the nation, performs in Washington’s most desirable performance venues and there is not only an office, but a full support staff in place as well. Did you ever imagine the ensemble reaching this level?

Reilly Lewis: I never doubted the strength of the Bach Consort’s mission or the devotion of its players and audience. The whole endeavor was driven by, as we say so often, an "irrepressible urge" to live in and through the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

I also never dreamed I'd have the great honor of performing all of Bach's more than 200 cantatas. In addition to the joy and sense of achievement these past thirty years embody, the recent acquisition of our printed and recorded archives by the Library of Congress is a particular source of pride.

RM: Thirty years! Congratulations. How did you go about programming this special anniversary season?

RL: The season might as well have been entitled "Bach's Tops" or "Bach's Greatest Hits"! Since we have performed all of his choral and orchestral music, it seemed a natural to celebrate this significant anniversary year by presenting some of the major "Bachbusters" in both of the prestigious venues we now call home: the Music Center at Strathmore where we’ll perform the B-Minor Mass, Christmas Oratorio, and St. Matthew Passion, and the Harman Center for the Arts, where we’ll kick things off with the Brandenburg Concertos.

RM: Are there any works that you have wanted to perform with the Consort but haven’t?

RL: Not by Bach, however, there is a vast wealth of repertoire by his contemporaries (Hasse, Biber, Telemann, Stoelzel, Buxtehude, etc. etc.). There are also wonderful composers from the earlier Baroque like Schein, Schuetz, Schelle (try to say that fast!), Praetorius, Hammerschmidt, Rosenmueller and all of Bach's predecessors in the post of Thomaskantor. And these are just some of the German possibilities. The French, Italian, Belgian, English, Dutch, Scandanvian (even American to some extend) Baroque repertoire is ripe for the picking.

RM: I can only imagine the stories surrounding thirty years with this ensemble, what’s your favorite Consort moment?

RL: I know this sounds corny, and I could certainly conjure up some salient anecdotes of great (or not so great) moments in our long history, but for me the best and favorite moments are when we're "in the moment" making glorious music together, a collegial fellowship of performers and listeners celebrating the Joy of Bach.

RM: Any parting words for your audience?

RL: Hoch lebe Bach...Long live Bach!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Heading into Anniversary Year on Sound Financial Footing

The Consort has seen a significant increase in both earned and contributed funding in recent years. We posted a surplus in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 and expect to see a second straight surplus in 2007. This new fiscal oversight, an extensive strategic planning model, and the continued generous support of friends and patrons will allow us to extend our reach and present the music of Bach to more individuals and groups throughout the community.

Consort Named Resident Music Ensemble

The Washington Bach Consort begins an exciting partnership with the Shakespeare Theatre Company as we become a resident music ensemble at their new Harman Center for the Arts’ Sydney Harman Hall. Included in the inaugural Harman series are three concerts showcasing the brilliant virtuosity of our vocal and instrumental artists.