Bella Voce to Open 36th Season
with J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor
in debut of Bella Voce Sinfonia
(CHICAGO 8/7/2018) On November 3rd, Bella Voce will open its 36th season with a performance of J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor in a concert that marks a milestone for the organization: the Bella Voce chorus will be joined by the Bella Voce Sinfonia in the debut performance of the newly-formed period instrument orchestra.
The Mass in B Minor has been considered since the 19th century as one of the greatest compositions in musical history and is a wonderful work to showcase the possibilities of Bella Voce’s full artistic capability, including both vocalists and instrumentalists expert in early music and historical performance practices.
The work was not completed until during the last year of Bach’s life, in 1749, and is not known to have been performed in its entirety until 1859. The encyclopedic work synthesizes a life of musical innovation and imagination, and in particular of the master’s lifetime of works for voice. As one scholar describes the work:
“The Mass in B minor is the consecration of a whole life: started in 1733 for ‘diplomatic’ reasons, it was finished in the very last years of Bach's life, when he had already gone blind. This monumental work is a synthesis of every stylistic and technical contribution the Cantor of Leipzig made to music. But it is also the most astounding spiritual encounter between the worlds of Catholic glorification and the Lutheran cult of the cross.”
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_in_B_minor Alberto Basso, ”The 'Great Mass' in B minor" in the booklet to the recording by Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent, released from Harmonia Mundi, HML5901614.15, 1999.).
Bella Voce is proud to present the masterpiece in concerts in November that will debut Bella Voce’s new period instrument orchestra, in effect merging Jerry Fuller’s long-standing period instrument orchestra Ars Antigua into the new Bella Voce Sinfonia. Martin Davids, the master violinist and leader of the Callipygian Players, as well as a long-time collaborator of Bella Voce, will serve as concertmaster.
The move not only gives Bella Voce greater artistic and administrative control over its concerts—it also gives the organization the opportunity to use its administrative strengths and brand reach to help build awareness of Chicago’s excellence in early music, and to work with other leaders to build a stronger period-instrument scene in Chicago. And though the orchestra is newly founded, it is composed of the same pool of Chicago’s finest, world-class, period instrument players of past collaborations.
Since its first season in the early 1980’s, Bella Voce has enchanted audiences with historically informed performances, backed by discipline and scholarship, that reawaken the sound world of early music for today’s audiences. Throughout its history, the chorus has collaborated with many of Chicago’s great period instrument orchestras—among them Ars Antigua, The Callipygian Players, and Rook—to present early works that required both vocalists and instrumentalists. After discussions with local early music leaders in recent years, Bella Voce’s leadership decided it was best for both Bella Voce and the Chicago early music community to found and support their own period instrument orchestra.
Tickets range from $10 - $70 and can be purchased online at www.bellavoce.org or by calling 312.479.1096. Discounts are available for purchasing online, for purchasing a season package, and for groups of 10 or more.
Mass in B Minor
J.S. Bach, Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) (with Bella Voce Sinfonia)
Saturday, November 3 7:30 pm @ St. James Cathedral (Chicago)
Sunday, November 4 3:30 pm @ St. Luke’s (Evanston)
Andrew Lewis, conductor
About Bella Voce
"one of the crown jewels of choral music in the city” —Chicago Tribune, April 2018
“historically informed scholarship and lively re-creative intelligence” —Chicago Tribune, October 2017
"like honey, rich and shining, with soprano voices soaring above the altos, tenors and basses, like light through darkness.” —Chicago Sun Times, 2006
Bella Voce proudly enriches Chicago’s rich cultural tapestry through intimate, moving performances of early music and the music of our time. Since 1983, our ensemble has enchanted audiences with historically informed presentations of fascinating choral and chamber works, whether well-known, rare, or new. We invite our audiences to join us in discovering artworks that have the power to lift us up, move us, and transform us. Our concerts are crafted through research and careful attention to performance practices, and we partner with Chicago’s top period instrument ensembles to bring works for voice and orchestra to life. Our repertoire and performance practices are rooted in the discipline of the English Renaissance and European Baroque traditions, and we boldly break boundaries to challenge our audiences to explore the expressive and artistic potential of the human musical imagination. We are committed to Chicago and to making the world a more peaceful and more beautiful place through art.
In 2004, Bella Voce received the prestigious Alice Parker ASCAP Chorus America Award for programming that was "an adventurous stretch" for both singers and audience, notably the 2002 Midwest premiere of Einojuhani Rautavaara's “Vigilia.” The ensemble has recorded for Centaur, Harmonia Mundi, Narada, and Cedille Records and also has four self-produced CDs in release. Bella Voce has commissioned choral works by composers including Frank Ferko, Gustavo Leone, Gabriel Jackson, Janika Vandervelde and Rami Levin.
About Andrew Lewis
Recently profiled by John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune as an “inspiring conductor, scholar, and educator,” Andrew Lewis is artistic director of Bella Voce; music director of the Elgin Master Chorale; founder and artistic director of the Janus Ensemble, a professional chamber orchestra specializing in Baroque and new music, which has now evolved into the Bella Voce Sinfonia; choirmaster at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston; and a member of the conducting faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also artistic director emeritus of the Lutheran Choir of Chicago, and he formerly taught conducting at DePaul University. Lewis has been a guest lecturer at Concordia University Chicago, Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, and the nationally recognized Lectures in Church Music series. He has appeared as a guest conductor with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, and his performances have been heard live on 98.7 WFMT classical radio. Andrew Lewis and Bella Voce were selected in 2014 by the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein the classical musicians everyone should have on their radar in their fall Arts Preview. Lewis has served as artistic director of Bella Voce since September 2006.