BRATTLEBORO -- Over Columbus Day weekend, the Blanche Moyse Chorale will again honor the memory of its beloved founder, Blanche Moyse, by performing a favorite selection of J. S. Bach’s choral music. This year’s selection is the "Christmas Oratorio."
The third annual Blanche Moyse Memorial Concert will be performed twice: on Friday at 7:30 p.m., at the Bellows Falls Opera House in Bellows Falls, and on Sunday at 2 p.m., at Marlboro College’s Persons Auditorium in Marlboro.
Under the direction of Mary Westbrook-Geha, who sang mezzo-soprano roles for Moyse in the New England Bach Festival for almost two decades, the Memorial Concert will treat its audience to complete performances of all six cantatas which make up the "Christmas Oratorio." Its choral movements are complemented by recitatives and arias sung by four soloists: soprano Hyunah Yu and tenor Steven Paul Spears, who both appeared often in later NEBF productions, and mezzo-soprano Katherine Maysek and baritone James Rittenhouse, who are newcomers to Moyse’s legacy.
The Chorale and the vocal soloists will be supported by the Blanche Moyse Memorial Orchestra, a baroque ensemble consisting largely of NEBF veterans. It features familiar names in its principal roles -- Strings: Mitsuru Tsubota, Mayuki Fukuhara, Louise Schulman, Daire FitzGerald and John T. Kulowitsch; Woodwinds: Stephen Taylor, Mark Hill and Charles McCracken; Brass: Michael Gorham and Julie Landsman; Organ: Gregory Hayes; Timpani: Charles Kiger. The Chorale is honored by the enthusiasm this distinguished orchestra has shown in reassembling for this Memorial Concert.
But why Christmas in October? Simply because Moyse’s celebrated New England Bach Festival (1969-2004) was always held in early October. The scheduling of her annual Memorial Concert has followed the same tradition. Moreover, while Bach’s oratorio does tell the Biblical Christmas story, this great work of art touches on many aspects of human experience, transcending the specifics of the Christian holiday calendar.
The Blanche Moyse Chorale, founded in 1978 as a program of the Brattleboro Music Center, is a chamber chorus of approximately 35 singers, who strive to attain the high level of musical artistry exemplified by its original director, Blanche Moyse. For many years, the Chorale was the choral arm of the New England Bach Festival.
Since 2007, director Mary Westbrook-Geha has led the Chorale in performances of works by Handel, Copland, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Britten, Palestrina, Schütz, Brahms, and J.S. Bach. Although based in the Brattleboro area, the Chorale includes singers from neighboring states and beyond.
Memorial Concert tickets purchased in advance are $20 for general seating or $40 for preferred seating, and may be obtained from the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523, at Brattleborotix.com or Brattleboro Music Center or from any Chorale member.
Tickets for the Bellows Falls concert are also for sale at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls. Tickets purchased at the door are $22 for general seating or $45 for preferred seating. All student tickets are $5. Both venues are handicapped-accessible. For special seating needs, reservations are appreciated.
Both performances are sponsored by Vermont Public Radio. For more information, call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523, or visit www.bmcvt.org.