California Bach Society is a 30-voice chamber choir specializing in Renaissance and Baroque music, presenting four concerts each year in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Welcome to our 47th season. Travel with us to Leipzig to hear Bach’s Missa Brevis in G; then off to the Baltics for Christmas. In the winter, we revel in the lush harmonies of the German Romantics and finish the year with Handel in Rome. It’s a season full of treasures! 

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Our 2017-2018 Season

 

SFEMS Berkeley Festival & Exhibition Main Stage Concert

June 3

SFEMS Berkeley Festival & Exhibition

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Learn more about the Berkeley Festival at berkeleyfestival.org

Un musicien de premier ordre

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Sun, June 3, 2018, 7:30pm
     St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft, Berkeley

Heralded by the San Francisco press for its “dazzling” and “sublime” performances, California Bach Society showcases Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s best choral works. Artistic director Paul Flight leads the award-winning 30-voice chorus, vocal soloists, flutes, and a full consort of viols in the poignant Litanies de la Vierge and the splendid Missa Assumpta est Maria

Charpentier wrote the Litanies de la Vierge early in his career, while in the employ of Mlle de Guise. The exquisite work, for six voices with two independent, treble gamba parts over it, was specifically written for Mlle de Guise’s house ensemble, in which Charpentier himself sang countertenor.  To learn more about treble gambas, read our blog post about the gamba family at http://www.calbach.org/blog/2017/4/19/the-gamba-family-on-stage.

At the end of his life, Charpentier held the most prestigious choir director post in all of France: “maître de musique” of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. It was for the choir that rehearsed and performed in this stunning church that he wrote the Missa Assumpta est Maria, nowadays widely considered his most beautiful mass setting. Artistic director Paul Flight says about this masterwork: “It is serene and exciting in turns, and has such a lovely scoring with the flutes.”

With vocal soloists Samuel Faustine, tenor; Timothy Silva, tenor; and Clayton Moser, bass.  Instrumentalists joining the 30 voice, award-winning chorus for these performances are Vicki Melin and Alissa Roedig, Baroque flutes; Marie Dalby Szuts and Amy Brodo, treble gambas; Julie Jeffries, alto gamba; Roy Whelden, tenor gamba, Lynn Tetenbaum, bass gamba; and Yuko Tanaka, organ.

 

Previous Concerts

Subscribe to all four concerts and save!  Season subscribers receive discounted prices and reserved seating at the front of the house, where available.

Oct 20–22

J.S. Bach Missa Brevis & Cantata 21

Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 8pm in San Francisco
     St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell St
Sat, Oct 21, 2017, 8pm in Palo Alto
     All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St
Sun, Oct 22, 2017, 4pm in Berkeley
     First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way

Initially written for a funeral in Weimar in 1713, Bach’s magnificent Cantata 21, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, was performed often during his lifetime and remained well-known among his colleagues and students throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Later in his life, Bach elegantly reworked some of the best choral and solo writing from his Leipzig cantatas into the Missa Brevis in G Major (BWV 236). With no less than three different choral fugues, two graceful arias, and a wonderfully expressive soprano-alto duet, the Missa Brevis is a worthy companion to Cantata 21. The program also includes Kuhnau's poignant motet Tristis est anima meam.

Artistic Director Paul Flight leads the 30-voice chorus and a Baroque orchestra of trumpets, tympani, oboe, and strings.  Vocal soloists are Caroline Jou Armitage, soprano; Paul Flight, countertenor; Jonathan Thomas, tenor; and Sepp Hammer, bass.

 

Dec 1–3

Christmas in Poland and the Baltic Countries

Fri, Dec 1, 2017, 8pm in San Francisco
     St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell St
Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 8pm in Palo Alto
     All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St
Sun, Dec 3, 2017, 4pm in Berkeley
     St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Ave

Our tradition of exploring the holiday music of other regions continues with a visit to Poland and the Baltics. Musical activity in Poland began to increase in earnest during the 17th century, when the polychoral style was introduced to the courts of Warsaw and Krakow. We present the Magnificat by Mikolaj Zielenski for three choirs, a fine example of this technique. From the Baltic region, we present music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, including his lively Bogoroditse Devo from the Orthodox vesper liturgy, and two works by his compatriot Veljo Tormis: Winter Patterns for women’s voices and Joulud Tulevad (Christmas is Coming) for men’s voices.

 

Mar 2–4

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German Romantics

Fri, Mar 2, 2018, 8pm in San Francisco
     St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell St
Sat, Mar 3, 2018, 8pm in Palo Alto
     All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St
Sun, Mar 4, 2018, 4pm in Berkeley
     St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Ave

Austria/Germany was an increasingly prosperous region in the 19th century.  The middle classes had more leisure time, and there was a great increase in amateur music-making, especially choral singing.  Composers such as Schumann, Brahms, and Mendelssohn responded to the demand for new pieces, composing large-scale sacred works, motets, and secular partsongs.  Lesser-known composers also created works for the new Singvereine (choral societies).  You will hear music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Gustav Jenner, and Joseph Rheinberger, in addition to works by the best-loved German Romantic composers.

 

Apr 20–22

 Ceiling fresco, Santa Maria in Montesanto, Rome

Ceiling fresco, Santa Maria in Montesanto, Rome

Handel in Rome

Fri, Apr 20, 2018, 8pm in San Francisco
     St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell St
Sat, Apr 21, 2018, 8pm in Palo Alto
     All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St
Sun, Apr 22, 2018, 4pm in Berkeley
     First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way

In 1706, young German composer Georg Friedrich Handel made his way from Hamburg to Rome.  Eager to make his mark there, he was soon enjoying the patronage of three of Rome’s most powerful cardinals. The music he composed for them is technically brilliant and self-assured, no doubt intended to show off his skills to the fullest. His 1707 service of Vespers at the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Montesanto is particularly astonishing, and we feature the three large-scale Vesper psalm settings, Nisi Dominus, Laudate Pueri Dominum, and, of course, the justly famous Dixit Dominus

Our 30-voice chorus will be joined by soloists Phoebe Rosquist and Caroline Jou Armitage, soprano; Paul Flight, countertenor; James Hogan, tenor; Jeffrey Fields, baritone; and a Baroque ensemble of strings, oboes, and organ.

Read more about the program in our latest blog post.

 

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 The choir, Fall 2017.  Photo by Will Toft.

The choir, Fall 2017.  Photo by Will Toft.