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Bach is Back

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 17:02


Rob Elmer | Freelancer

Western Oregon University's Department of Music presented "The Brilliance of Bach, Cantata to Concerto" in a performance with Salem Baroque and Dr. Kevin Helppie, joined by the Western Oregon University Chamber Singers, conducted by Dr. Bruce Mayhall Rastrelli. During the performance, Bach could be heard resonating through Smith Recital Hall. Many years his death, he is still alive through our inspiration. Arlene Pavlisick, senior at Western, said before the performance, "I hope to enjoy it. It looks interesting."

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) lived and composed during the Baroque period, as well as other famous composers such as Vivaldi, Corelli and Handel.  Bach wrote in an era when the instruments were slightly different than they are now. Instruments have developed over time and there are two approaches when you play music written 250-300 years ago. They can either be played on a contemporary instruments with contemporary stylings or played it in what's called historically informed performance.

"Salem Baroque" uses instruments that are either from that era, or styled after They are baroque instruments with gut strings and their bows are shaped like baroque bows were shaped rather than a modern bow. It lightens up the music and creates intensity and dynamic contrast in a different way.

"Cantata BWV158, Der Friede sei mit dir," composed in 1723, was performed with Dr. Kevin Helppie joined by the Western Oregon University Chamber Singers, conducted by Dr. Bruce Mayhall Rastrelli. The Chamber Singers sounded angelic in a cantata that demanded just that. They sang in accord and with precision. There was mesmerizing passion coursing through the stage that was unmistakable in that it was performed not only vocally and with instruments, but also with their bodies, moving in time with the music.  

They chose music that would highlight the many moods and dimensions of Bach's work: tender and reflective to fiery and energetic. They wanted their music selection to showcase their ensemble, so cantatas that feature a solo voice and a solo instrument were an ideal fit as opposed to any Bach's larger works that require orchestras, choruses, and much larger instrumental forces. They have been rehearsing since November for "The Brilliance of Bach." The desired outcome was that people would feel a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty and complexity of Bach's music, and indeed they achieved that and more.

Cheeka Vang, senior at Western and student of Dr. Helppie said, "it was really great. It looks difficult. I liked the duet the most." She refers to the duet "Cantata BWV 82, Ich hatte viel Bukemmernis" written in 1714, sung by Elizabeth Eck, soprano, and Dr. Helppie, baritone,  in a performance that was astounding and captivating. Dr. Ike Nail, music professor at Western, remarked after the performance that it sounded very authentic.  

Daryl Silberman, violinist for Salem Baroque said, "the music never ends. It never just stops, it always lives on."


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