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

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.”