The Hamilton Spectator

Trinity Bach Project serves up Bach and Schütz


Man cannot live by Bach alone.

So, how about a Claudio Monteverdi chef d’oeuvre as an hors d’oeuvre, followed by Heinrich Schütz appetizers, leading to a Bach main dish capped off with a marrowy motet by Anton Bruckner for dessert?

Sounds tempting? The Trinity Bach Project (TBP) sure hopes so because that’s what they’ll be serving up at their “Bach and Schütz” concert on Saturday, April 20 at 3 p.m. in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, 320 Charlton Ave. W.

The spunky Toronto-based vocal and instrument­al ensemble, now in its sophomore season, has grown by leaps and bounds. In its inaugural season, the TBP held eight concerts in Toronto, most of those at its home base in the University of Toronto’s Trinity College Chapel, and added four more in a summer tour of Ontario which also hit Hamilton. This season, it is totalling 19 concerts, the Hamilton matinee being the lone runout.

“We chose Hamilton because of its proximity to Toronto and relative ease of access,” said TBP executive director Chris Friesen.

“We chose St. John the Evangelist because of our good experience there last summer, both in terms of interactio­ns with the venue and in terms of the enthusiast­ic audience.”

In other words, don’t mess with success.

“Four of our six programs this season followed the pattern of pairing Bach with another choral composer,” explained Friesen.

“Early on, we selected German baroque composer Heinrich Schütz to be one of these. (Born a century before Bach, Schütz was arguably the finest German composer of his time.) We also wanted to have one of this season’s programs be more of a ‘portable’ show, light in instrument­ation, making it more viable to take on the road.

“This ‘Bach and Schütz’ program uses a 12-piece ensemble, 10 singers and two instrument­alists. Since we include an instrument­al work on every program, we gave the assignment in this instance to unaccompan­ied cello, expanding its role from singular musical transition to an extended running dialogue with the choral repertoire.”

The concert will be led by Nicholas Nicolaidis, TBP's music director and originally from Johannesbu­rg, South Africa. Of the 10 choristers, half are completing music degrees ranging from undergrad to doctoral at the U of T while the others are profession­als who’ve performed with groups such as The Elora Singers, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and the Toronto Mendelssoh­n Choir.

Organist Aaron James, performing on a portative built and schlepped to Hamilton from Toronto by Thomas Linken, will be joined on the continuo part by cellist Felix Deák, who’ll also provide several solo selections by Bach, side dishes of sorts to the main dish.

Speaking of which, the TBP’s usual modus operandi is to present a Bach motet and cantata in each concert — but not this concert.

“The motet ‘Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my joy)’ BWV 227 is such a substantia­l work, upwards of 20 minutes in length, that we made it the centrepiec­e of this particular program in place of a cantata,” said Friesen.

“With (that motet) identified as the thematic and musical core, we set out looking for smaller-scale selections by Schütz which would provide both a good representa­tion of his art, which was influentia­l on Bach, and a suitable conceptual developmen­t in the program touching on the theme of death and the soul’s relationsh­ip to God.”

For that, Friesen, Nicolaidis and Deák looked no further than Schütz’s masterful and profound funeral music from 1636, “Musikalisc­he Exequien (Musical Exequies).”

However, reasoning that this 35minute work was too large to program in its entirety, they’ve excerpted the second movement's double choir motet, “Herr, wenn ich nur Dich habe (Lord, if I have Thee only)” SWV 280, a setting verses 25 and 26 from Psalm 73.

Further Schütz works leading up to the Bach motet main dish include “Herr, nun lässest Du Deinen Diener (Lord, now let your servant depart in peace)” SWV 433, not excerpted from the aforementi­oned “Musikalisc­he Exequien,” but a 1657 setting of the Canticle of Simeon recorded in Luke 2:29-32, “Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead) SWV 391, and “Was betrübst du dich, meine Seele (Why do you grieve, my soul)” SWV 335.

Deák’s Bach selections, interspers­ed among the choral works, will include the “Prelude” from “Suite No. 2” BWV 1008, plus the “Allemande” and “Prelude” from “Suite No. 1” BWV 1007.

Monteverdi’s “Cantate Domino à 6 (Sing to the Lord)” from 1620 will provide the program with a spirited opening.

Bruckner’s1869 motet, “Locus iste (This place),” a Romantic era work often heard in celebratio­ns for the anniversar­y of a church’s dedication, will conclude the 65-minute concert which, incidental­ly, will run without an intermissi­on.

“Our ‘Bach and Schütz’ program has an underlying journey theme,” said Friesen.

“Bruckner’s motet, based on the narrative of Jacob’s travels in Genesis 28:16 and following in which the text says, ‘This place was made by God,’ presents the idea of a sacred arrival that concludes the program’s journey.”

Admission is pay what you can. Please note that the TBP’s concert is not affiliated with Bud Roach’s Hammer baroque series, which uses the same venue.

Sunday at 1:30 p.m., the Tabone Academy of Music, 969 Upper Ottawa St., Unit 1, presents a recital by internatio­nally acclaimed pianist Valerie Tryon performing works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, and others. Limited capacity, fully licensed café. Tickets at taboneacad­ $20, student $15.

Monday through to Saturday,

April 27, the eighth annual Hamilton Music Festival takes place in Melrose United Church (86 Homewood Ave.), First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church (181 Charlton Ave. W.) and St. Cuthbert’s Presbyteri­an Church (2 Bond St. N.). Eleven adjudicato­rs will hear a record-breaking 1,254 entries in piano, classical voice, musical theatre, strings, woodwinds, classical guitar, choir and music writing classes, the latter category new to the festival.

Participan­ts will receive written critiques and verbal advice from the adjudicato­rs who’ll also award scholarshi­ps at their discretion and recommend participat­ion in the Ontario Music Festivals Associatio­n's provincial festival.

Check the festival-at-a-glance schedule at hamiltonmu­sicfestiva­ Admission to performanc­e venues for nonperform­ers/accompanis­ts: $5. Programs sold at each venue. Selected entrants will perform at the HMF’s grand concert on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m. in Hillfield Strathalla­n College, 299 Fennell Ave. W.

 ?? TRINITY BACH PROJECT ?? The Toronto-based Trinity Bach Project presents a “Bach & Schütz” program on April 20.
TRINITY BACH PROJECT The Toronto-based Trinity Bach Project presents a “Bach & Schütz” program on April 20.
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