EMMANUEL MUSIC has received generous grants from the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation, Drs. Peter Libby and Beryl Benacerraf, Oberlin Conservatory, and others to help underwrite the costs of an important educational outreach program it will undertake in the 2011-12 season in collaboration with Oberlin Conservatory and Winsor Music. John Harbison, faculty member of The Bach Institute says:
“Fifty years ago, it was common for high school and college choruses to perform Bach motets. A challenging adventure--usually far too difficult-but exciting and memorable. Twenty years ago such excursions had become rare. In the United States, Bach's music began to be regarded as pedagogy, as it was in the decades immediately following his death.
“Even now, at our finest summer music academies we find that a high percentage of these well-trained participants are encountering Bach for the first time, if this music is included at all. And to their surprise, they find it, above all, beautiful and inspiring--as well as challenging and instructive.”
“At Emmanuel, in our diverse outreach projects, we have found startlingly little background in Bach's music, and unfailingly delighted, even awestruck responses to every hour spent with our greatest musical master.”
From January 8 through 24, 2012, ten college and conservatory students, from Oberlin Conservatory and local Boston institutions such as New England Conservatory and Boston University School of Music, will embark on a intensive exploration, mentored by Emmanuel Music faculty, into the historical framework and performance of Bach cantatas and arias. The greater Boston community will be enriched by master classes, lectures, and performances of the faculty and students of The Bach Institute, all free and presented at Emmanuel Church.
The Bach Institute has a two-fold mission: to provide an intensive opportunity for college-age students to become immersed in the experience of learning about and performing Bach; and a community outreach component in collaboration with Winsor Music that will 1.) present performances of Bach arias at local recovery homes and assisted living facilities, including Goddard House, Jamaica Plain; Brookhaven, Lexington; VNA, Somerville; North Hill, Needham; 2.) present an educational program designed by Bach Institute participants to students at the Mather Elementary School in Dorchester, a Boston Public School; and 3.) offer the public opportunities to enrich their understanding and appreciation of J.S. Bach. This year’s program will include a free master class, a lecture by John Harbison, and a free performance of a Bach cantata and selected arias open to the general public. These public performances will be promoted through press releases, social media, posters, and flyers.
The faculty for The Bach Institute will be drawn from the Emmanuel Music ensemble, and will include Ryan Turner, Artistic Director; John Harbison, Principal Guest Conductor; Kendra Colton, soprano; Pamela Dellal, mezzo-soprano; Frank Kelley, tenor; Peggy Pearson, oboe; Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello; Michael Beattie, organ. Kendra Colton, who initiated the project, says:
“As a performer and teacher I have come to realize that there is nothing more difficult to sing well than Bach. His music requires a musical sophistication, technical mastery of vocal articulation, and emotional investment that challenges the most experienced singers. At Emmanuel we embrace these challenges and strive to improve our own skills to meet the demands of Bach’s music.
Having a Bach Institute where students sit side-by-side with Emmanuel musicians is a rare opportunity for them to learn this great repertoire from experienced performers. The students’ eyes will be opened to the importance of skills like sight-reading, German language facility, choral and solo singing, limited rehearsal structures, and Bach’s vocal chamber music repertoire.
An intensive period of exposure to this music will certainly improve the students’ skills and also reinforce the merits and necessity of having solid musical skills in the professional world.”
Faculty members for The Bach Institute experience will select qualified conservatory and school of music undergraduate students to participate in the program. There will be a quartet of singers (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a continuo team (cello and organ), solo flute, violin and oboe. Of these students, six will be invited from Oberlin College; the others will be from the Boston area. This combination of musicians will enable us to explore a great variety of repertoire.
In addition to the performing students, we will also recruit a conservatory student who will assist in office operations and audit classes whenever possible.
Community members have an important role in the success of The Bach Institute. Out-of-town students will be housed in homes of host families; community volunteers will provide lunches and dinners on site and transportation to our outreach concerts.
In January 2011, Emmanuel Music presented a pilot program, which in 2012 is being expanded substantially. Here are some of the comments from students in the 2011 program:
“This is my first experience with Bach Cantatas and it has made e really appreciate Bach even more.”
“I loved being able to see how great musicians approached the cantatas and I felt I learned a lot from that experience.”
“The most important part of the Bach Institute for me was exploring the beautiful music with talented peers and getting very instructive coaching by some of the most knowledgeable Bach musicians!”