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Bach Choir 60th Anniversary

The San Francisco Bach Choir's celebrates its 60th anniversary concert with an all-Beethoven program.

The San Francisco Bach Choir celebrated its 60th anniversary concert in an all Beethoven program featuring the Missa Solemnis, Opus 123, on June 29 and 30, 1996 at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. The Missa Solemnis postdates The Creation, the great oratorio in B flat by Franz Joseph Haydn, by nearly fifty years. These two major choral works signify and define the shift from Classic to Romantic musical literature. Jonathan Harris's scholarly program notes suggest that Haydn's devotional form and subject matter also shifted into more secular forms for the Missa, and extended Beethoven's audience to Protestants. Whatever its origins, the Missa Solemnis stands as a pinnacle in music literature alongside The Creation.

Babbitt's program also offered Beethoven's classic "Hallelujah" chorus from an early oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, opus 85, and the Piano Concerto, No. 2 in B-flat, opus 19, played by Steven Bailey. The all-Beethoven choice made financial sense, explained Executive Director, Sharon L. Gustavson: they could use the same orchestra of modern instrumentalists throughout, and, the concerto offered a well-earned opportunity for Bach choir accompanist, Steven Bailey, to reveal his exceptional ability in performance. Indeed, it succeeded, particularly through a long cadenza, added some years after the Concerto was completed.

The San Francisco Bach Choir has been directed over the past fifteen years by David. P. Babbitt. From the musical spirit exposed in concert, Babbitt appears to direct as a participant as much as leader in the united force of voices, instrumentalists, musicology, audience and the ineffables. The first tones of "Hallelujah" announced that this would be a splendid experience for the listeners. Soloists received rapt attention from the other performers, the singers knew their parts and could focus on the dynamics of the music and the tones lifted spirits throughout. Singing or playing at surpassing ability, by Sanctus time, the choir was dancing along with the audience.

The San Francisco Bach choir's fall season opens with an October 7 concert at Calvary Presbyterian Church and the Christmas program will take place there on December 6, 7 and 8. The Christmas concert will be Venetian, presenting Sixteenth Century music by Andrea and nephew Giovanni Gabrieli. Spring concerts promise all the Bach motets and meanwhile, the Bach Choir album of the Christmas music of Michael Praetorius should be on the market.

Friends of the San Francisco Bach Choir will provide membership and support information at 3145 Geary Boulevard, Suite 210, San Francisco, CA 94118.


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