Bethlehem Press

Monday, March 18, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOLehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Touring Choir CONTRIBUTED PHOTOLehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Touring Choir
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOParkland High School Chorale CONTRIBUTED PHOTOParkland High School Chorale
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOEmmaus High School Chorale CONTRIBUTED PHOTOEmmaus High School Chorale

Emmaus, Parkland, LV Charter Arts join Bel Canto, Bach Choir in ‘Choirs Festival’

Friday, February 22, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

More than 200 young voices join the renowned singers of Bach Choir of Bethlehem in a concert geared for families, 3 p.m. Feb. 24, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.

The “Family Concert: Youth Choirs Festival” features the Bach Choir’s Bel Canto Youth Chorus with the Bach Choir and members of The Bach Festival Orchestra, as well as members of three high school choruses, all under the direction of Bach Choir Artistic Director and Conductor Greg Funfgeld, in a program that includes works from Bach and contemporary composers.

The high school choruses, which are by audition-only, are the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Touring Choir, directed by David Macbeth; Emmaus High School Chorale, directed by Rita Cortez, and Parkland High School Chorale, directed by Frank Anonia.

“Three years ago, the Bach Choir held a youth choir festival as its family concert and it was such a success, we wanted to do it again,” says Funfgeld.

“It was a wonderful experience having a chorus of more than 200 singers,” he says. “These kids are very gifted.”

Last summer, the Bach Choir solidified its commitment to young singers by adding Bel Canto in a merger. It’s now known as Bel Canto Youth Chorus of Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

The merger is part of Bach Choir’s goal to encourage young people to become involved in choral singing and promote the performance of the music of J.S. Bach.

Bel Canto performed at the 2016 Youth Choirs Festival.

“The sound of all those voices together lifted in song was fabulous,” says Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto Artistic Director and Conductor.

The choirs will combine to sing “Unclouded Day” with words and music by Rev. J.K. Alwood and arranged by Shawn Kirchner; George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” from “Four Coronation Anthems,” and J.S. Bach’s “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

“The Parkland Chorale is thrilled to be collaborating with The Bach Choir, and to be teaming up with other students to create beautiful music,” says Anonia.

“Our students are eager to tackle repertoire not typically programmed for our concerts and honored to participate in this event,” Anonia says.

“The Festival provides an opportunity to experience the full power and majesty of large works we would not otherwise perform on our own,” says Macbeth.

“There is nothing that transcends the experience of singing a timeless masterwork with one’s friends and colleagues,” Macbeth says.

For “Unclouded Day,” Funfgeld says the students will start out in the aisles of Baker Hall in Zoellner so that the audience will be surrounded by music. The gospel song was written by Alwood in 1879.

“It is a spiritual that has a spectacular ending,” he says. “It’s fun to sing and a joy to hear.”

Funfgeld says Handel wrote “Zadok the Priest” for the coronation of George II in 1727. The piece has been performed at all British coronations since George II.

“It is among the most popular pieces in choral repertoire and is just spectacular,” Funfgeld says. “It builds and builds, and then the choir comes in with trumpets. It’s one of most hair-raising experiences in choral music.”

“Dona Nobis Pacem” is from Bach’s “Mass in B Minor.” Funfgeld says it’s the Bach Choir’s “signature piece.”

“We wanted to do something uplifting,” says Funfgeld.

The piece, the title of which means “Give Us Peace,” is the final movement in the Mass, which was one of Bach’s last compositions, completed in 1749.

A smaller ensemble of voices will perform Bach’s “Sanctus in D Minor.” The Bach Choir and Bel Canto will sing the Duet from Bach’s Cantata 93.

Each of the three high school youth choirs will perform individual pieces.

Lehigh Valley Charter Arts Touring Choir will sing “Hymn of Axciom” by contemporary singer-songwriter Vienna Teng. The lyrics deal with the collection of personal information for marketing databases.

Emmaus High School Chorale will perform “Sitivit Anima Mea” by contemporary choral composer Richard Burchard. The lyrics are the Latin text from the Psalms in the Bible.

Parkland High School Chorale will sing “For He Shall Give His Angels” from Felix Mendelssohn’s 19th century oratorio “Elijah” about the life of the Biblical prophet.

Tickets: Bach Choir office, 440 Heckewelder Place, Bethlehem; office@bach.org; bach.org; 610-866-4382; 610-758-2787, Ext. 0; Zoellner Arts Center box office, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem.