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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bach Johannespassion with Pro Coro

I'm in the middle of final rehearsals (final choral rehearsal last night; this afternoon continuo, Evangelist and Pilate; tonight full orchestra with arias and some work on the choruses) for the Bach St. John Passion. Tomorrow afternoon: arias with a few instruments; tomorrow evening, chorus and orchestra; Thursday morning: recits with Evangelist and Jesus; Thursday night dress; Friday evening performance at 7:30.

This is my last concert as Pro Coro's Artistic Director, a position I've held (and enjoyed) for twelve seasons. I first guest conducted, filling in for Gustav Sjökvist, in 1996. I was then approached in early 1998 about being a candidate for the vacant AD post. I agreed to become a candidate and conducted an audition concert in the Fall of 1998, then began my tenure in Fall 1999.

When I decided to take the position I now hold at the University of North Texas, it was clear to me that I couldn't devote the time necessary to do the job with Pro Coro. When I interviewed for PC long ago, I told the committee that if I took it on, it wouldn't be a "gig," that I always planned and thought long-term in such a job. And I do feel proud that I've always looked at my work with Pro Coro that way. I've always tried to think of what would build the choir and organization to be the best it could be--of course, it's for others to judge how successful I was.

This coming performance is one that gives me great joy. I love doing extended works such as this, music that calls for shaping large forms and pacing a great story into a cohesive and dramatic performance. And Bach's works have always been one of my loves--early in my career I founded a group in Seattle called the Bach Ensemble specifically to perform Bach cantatas, and I've conducted over 50 of them, plus all the big works, most of them multiple times.

I also get to work with this wonderful choir, with a number of players I've worked with regularly here in Edmonton, in an absolutely great hall. Soloists include Derek Chester, who's a new friend and colleague from Texas, as the Evangelist; Paul Grindlay, a wonderful musician whom I've worked with numerous times since coming to Edmonton, as Jesus; and soloists for the arias who'll also come from and sing in the chorus: Abra Whitney singing the alto solos, Michael Kurschat the bass solos, and Jordan Van Biert the role of Pilate. Jolaine Kerley and Tim Shantz both sang with the choir regularly in my early years and as soloists in more recent years--both did DMA work at IU. Jolaine has built a  career as singer, voice teacher, and conductor (the solo roles in both of Allan Bevan's two great oratorios which we premiered were written for her); and Tim is a wonderful conductor and superb singer as well. It's my special pleasure that they both agreed to sing for this concert, and as the other soloists, sing in both arias and choruses.

I look forward to the next couple days of rehearsals and the performance. I don't look forward to ending my regular association with the many wonderful people and musicians of Edmonton (and our favorite restaurant, Bistro Praha)! But it simply must be done. I know I'll be back to visit and hopefully occasionally conduct or do a workshop, but I'll miss this part of my life incredibly.

More after the performance (I'm sure including some photos taken by my wife) and news about Pro Coro's future.

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