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Encyclopedia > The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

The oldest American Bach Choir, The Bach Choir of Bethlehem gave the first complete American performances of The Mass in B Minor and The Christmas Oratorio. Since its founding in 1898, the now-famous Choir has been attracting thousands of national and international visitors every May to its annual Bethlehem Bach Festival.


Under Greg Funfgeld’s passionate direction, 95 volunteer members sing not only with traditional Bach Choir dedication and enthusiasm, but also with a new level of musicianship and understanding of Bach’s choral universe. Today’s performances feature the finely-honed vocal ensemble, a fully professional orchestra, and world-renowned soloists. The repertoire includes 133 cantatas, all of the motets, and 15 of Bach’s larger works. Cantata (Italian for a song or story set to music), a vocal composition accompanied by instruments and generally containing more than one movement. ... In Western music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions. ...


During the past decade The Choir has received critical acclaim for performances at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, the Herkulessaal at Munich’s Royal Residence, The Kennedy Center in Washington, and Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as for its recordings on the Dorian label. The Choir will tour the United Kingdom in July, 2003, including a performance for the prestigious BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The Thomaskirche in Leipzig The Thomaskirche (St. ... [] (Sorbian/Lusatian: Lipsk) is the largest city in the Federal State (Bundesland) of Saxony in Germany. ... The Kennedy Center as seen from the Potomac River. ... Carnegie Hall Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City located at 881 7th Avenue, occupying the east stretch of 7th Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street. ... Royal Albert Hall The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences is an arts venue dedicated to Queen Victorias husband and consort, Prince Albert. ...


The Choir has presented its outstanding “Bach to School” program to nearly 50,000 children. Other educational programs include the annual Family Concert, a Choral Scholars program for gifted high-school seniors who sing with The Choir for one year, and a Philadelphia High School Bach Weekend


Historical Overview

1898 A group of singers is organized on December 5, 1898 by Ruth Porter Doster to study Bach's Mass in B Minor under the leadership of J. Fred Wolle, organist of the Bethlehem Moravian Church, Founder and first Conductor of The Bach Choir. Ralph R. Hillman is elected first President of The Choir and Rush Doster, Secretary.


1900 The Bach Choir presents the first American performance of The Mass in B Minor under Wolle's direction at the 1st Bach Festival on March 27, 1900 in the Moravian Church. The performance commemorates the 150th anniversary of Bach's death. The Moravian Trombone Choir establishes the tradition of playing Bach chorales from the belfry of the church. A Moravian is a Protestant belonging to a religious movement that originated in Moravia, Czech Republic. ...


1905 The Bach Choir disbands when Wolle accepts a professorship at the University of California at Berkeley.


1911 Wolle returns to Bethlehem. The Bach Choir is revived by a group of community leaders including Charles M. Schwab.


1912 The annual Bach Fesitvals are reinstituted. The Bach Choir, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra, performs for the first time in Packer Memorial Church on the campus of Lehigh University. Under Schwab's leadership the Guarantor System is begun to insure the financial stability of The Bach Choir. Lehigh University is a private, co-educational university located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of the United States. ...


Henry S. Drinker, President of Lehigh University, is elected as the second President of The Choir. Lehigh University is a private, co-educational university located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of the United States. ...


1917 The Philharmonic Society of New York invites The Bach Choir to sing in a Bach-Beethoven program at Carnegie Hall in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Philharmonic Society.


1918 The Bach Choir joins the Philharmonic Society in New York again, for a Bach-Wagner concert, and is invited to Schwab's home on Riverside Drive. At the festival in Bethlehem, during this time of war, the Star Spangled Banner is sung before each Friday session as well as on the green between sessions on Saturday. Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and other national figures are in attendance. Nicholson took the copy Key gave him to a printer, where it was published as a broadside on September 17 under the title The Defence of Fort McHenry, with an explanatory note explaining the circumstances of its writing. ...


The book The Bethlehem Bach Choir, authored by Raymond Walters, is published in April.


1921 Charles M. Schwab is named the third President of The Choir. In November, at the invitation of The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Choir sings The Mass in B Minor at The Academy of Music, to a capacity audience.


1925 The Choir is chosen, as the most representative of America's musical organizations, to perform The Mass in B Minor in an Easter Concert for the International Conference of World Fellowship Through Music in the new Washington, D.C. Auditorium. The Choir is invited aboard the Presidential yacht and to the White House to be greeted by President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge. The Choir is phoographed in front of the White House. 1926 Ruth M. Linderman becomes the fourth Choir President.


1933 J. Fred Wolle dies. A memorial performance of The Mass in B Minor, paying tribute to Wolle, is conducted by Bruce Carey, who becomes The Choir's second Conductor. 1934 Carey, from Girard College in Philadelphia, conducts the Bach Festival. Henry S. Snyder is chosen the fifth Choir President. Girard College is a private, U.S. boarding school on a 43-acre campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for academically capable students, grades 1 through 12, from families with limited financial resources, headed by a single parent or guardian. ...


1939 Ifor Jones, Welsh-born musician, organist, and former professor at Rutgers University, debuts as the third Conductor of The Bach Choir.


1942 Gretchen Wolle presents Bach editions, used by her father, to Lehigh University. A plaque honoring J. Fred Wolle is placed in Packer Memorial Church.


1943 Saturday morning concerts are added to the festivals. Dr. William Estes, Jr. is elected sixth President of The Choir.


1947 An estimated 9,200 people attend a performance of The Mass in B Minor at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Ifor Jones conducts The Choir and members of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Altar The Cathedral of St. ... The Philadelphia Orchestra, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the Big Five symphony orchestras in the United States and usually considered among the finest in the world. ...


1948 The Choir records Cantata #78 for Victor Records. The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901 - 1929) was a United States corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. ...


1949 A second weekend is added to the Bach Festival.


1957 The 50th Bach Festival is held. Ifor Jones opens the Thursday evening rehearsal to the community.


1959 The Bach Festival Orchestra premieres at the May Festival, replacing the Philadelphia Orchestra.


1961 Elmer L. Mack becomes the seventh Choir President.


1962 The 55th Bach Festival is dedicated to Albert Schweitzer, with a letter from Schweitzer printed in the program. Albert Schweitzer Albert Schweitzer, M.D., OM, (January 14, 1875 – September 4, 1965) was a German Alsatian theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician. ...


1965 The Choir is invited to sing at the International Choral Festival in October, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Handel and Haydn Society in Symphony Hall, Boston. Charles H. Wiekel is elected eighth President of The Choir. The Handel and Haydn Society is a choral society in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. ... There are a number of concert halls known as Symphony Hall. ...


1969 The Hon. Carleton T. Woodring becomes The Choir's ninth President. Alfred Mann, Professor of Music at Rutgers University and Editor of The American Choral Review, becomes the fourth Conductor of The Choir. Alfred E. Mann (born 1925, Portland, OR), who also goes by Al Mann, is a billionaire American entrepreneur and philanthropist. ... Rutgers redirects here. ...


1972 Kenneth L. Houck is named as the tenth Choir President. A special concert of the 100th performance of The Mass in B Minor is given on May 22 as a gift to the community from The Choir.


1975 The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship invites The Bach Choir to join in a January evening of tribute to Albert Schweitzer's 100th birthday at Carnegie Hall in a performance of the first and last choruses of the Saint Matthew passion and the Kyrie from The Mass. In November, Eugene Ormandy conducts The Bach Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra in three performances of The Mass in B Minor at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to sell-out audiences. This is followed by the fourth performance with Ormandy and The Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, New York. Carnegie Hall Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City located at 881 7th Avenue, occupying the east stretch of 7th Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street. ...


1976 The Choir arrives in Germany to perform in the 51st International Bach Society Festival and travels behind the iron curtain to sing at the Thomaskirche, Bach's church in Leipzig. As our nation celebrates its bicentennial, a bronze plaque commemorating The Bach Choir's 1st Festival in 1900 is dedicated and placed at Central Moravian Church.


1980 William Reese, Professor of Music at Haverford College, becomes the fifth Conductor of The Choir.


1981 Thomas T. Church is elected the eleventh President of The Choir. 1983 Greg Funfgeld becomes Artistic Director and sixth Conductor of The Bach Choir.


1986 The first annual Christmas Concert is held at the First Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem on December 14. Greg Funfgeld directs The Choir in Bach's Christmas Oratorio. The Christmas Oratorio (German: Weihnachtsoratorium) BWV 248 is a work by Johann Sebastian Bach celebrating the Christmas season. ...


1988 The Bach Choir and Festival Orchestra, Greg Funfgeld conducting, records Christmas in Leipzig with Dorian Recordings.


1989 Greg Funfgeld conducts The Bach Choir and The Bach Festival Orchestra in Wachet Auf!, a second recording on the Dorian label.


1990 Greg Funfgeld institutes a Spring Concert with a performance on March 18 of The Passion According to Saint John.


1991 Janice S. Bonge is chosen as twelfth President of The Choir.


1993 "Bach to School", an educational program, is begun for the development of young audiences, reaching more than 5,000 students a year in the Lehigh Valley.


1994 In advance of the upcoming trip to Germany, The Choir produces a recording of Christmas carols and Bach chorales, Christmas in Bethlehem, which becomes an immediate success.


1995 The Choir returns to the Thomaskirche, the church Bach served in Leipzig, Germany and also gives a performance of The Mass in B Minor in the Herkulessaal in Munich.


1996 John A. Jordan, Jr. is elected as The Choir's thirteenth President.


1997 Christmas in Bethlehem, volume 2, a second recording of Christmas carols including a hymn by J. Fred Wolle, is recorded by The Choir and released as a preview to the Centennial.


1998 The 100th Anniversary of the founding of The Bach Choir. The Centennial Commemoration commences at the May Festival. A new recording of The Mass in B Minor is released on the Dorian label. Bach in Bethlehem, a 108-page pictorial history of The Bach Choir, is published by author and historian Ralph Grayson Schwarz. 1999 The Choir performs The Mass at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the Centennial celebration. The Kennedy Center as seen from the Potomac River. ...


2000 Continuing the Centennial celebration, The Choir performs The Mass again, at Carnegie Hall, to a standing ovation and four curtain calls. The first annual Family Concert is held at Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University on February 27th. The concert, based on the popular Bach to School program, fills the hall with children and their adult companions for an hour of music, followed by a cake to celebrate The Choir's birthday. Zoellner Arts Center is an arts center located on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the United States. ... Lehigh University is a private, co-educational university located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of the United States. ...


External links

Offial Bach Choir of Bethlehem website [1]


 
 

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