By E.M. Fredric
PASADENA, CA (The Hollywood Times) 06/01/19 – The Pasadena Master Chorale (PMC) presents Bach’s St. John Passion on Saturday, June 15, at 8 p.m. at St. Philip the Apostle church. An evening where Bach is enlivened, made relevant and becomes more approachable.
“The audience will experience “something unique,” promises Jeffrey Bernstein, PMC’s artistic director. “Just as a solo artist offers something personal to a performance, so too an ensemble imbues a performance with something of itself – its culture, its practices, its sound.
“For instance, at this performance of the St. John Passion, the audience will not hear some arias, while another aria – usually sung by a soloist – will be sung by the bass section of the choir. We have also chosen to perform one chorale a cappella, although a first-rate professional baroque orchestra will accompany us on period instruments for the remainder of the evening.
“The motet is a favorite of ours,” Bernstein reveals. “But for this performance we’ll retext the ending from ad te, Deus, to Thee, God to ad te, Jesu. Clearly this decision is a modern and creative one. Yet it is grounded in the knowledge that Bach knew the music of Palestrina and designed the ‘St. John Passion’ to be followed by other music.”
The Pasadena Master Chorale’s concert will conclude with yet one more PMC touch – a performance of the motet Sicut Cervus by Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierliugi de Palestrina. The role of the Evangelist will be sung by Boston-based tenor Arthur Rishi. All other solos will be sung by PMC members: baritone Eric Werner (singing the role of Jesus); baritone Chris Tickner (Pilate); soprano Sara Owinyo (Ich Folge Dich Gleichfalls and Zerfliße); alto Cristina Hernandez (Von Den Stricken and Es Ist Vollbracht) and tenor Joel Drake (Mein Herz).
“Arthur Rishi sings the Evangelist exquisitely, with perfect pacing, sensitivity, and a gorgeous voice,” Bernstein says. “Having choir members sing the arias and dramatic roles frames the story, showing clearly that the music is sung by a company of singers who assume different roles at different times. It makes for a multilayered performance. On one level, the Pasadena Master Chorale sings a dramatic work by Bach. On another, singers from the choir depict dramatic roles within the story.”
Having the Evangelist sung by a singer who is not in the choir adds another layer, Bernstein continues. The audience will play a role as well – an effect Bernstein will heighten through an array of simple staging techniques, such as having a solo line or two sung from the audience. “The audience witnesses and contemplates,” Bernstein explains. “In this way, Bach is enlivened and made relevant and approachable in 21st century Los Angeles.”
Tradition for tickets: Listen First, Then Give basis. After the concert the audience donates to PMC as they are moved and able.
St. Philip the Apostle church is located at 151 South Hill Avenue, Pasadena, CA. 91106.
For more information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org or call 626.208-0009.