Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece, his B Minor Mass, returns to Chattanooga for the first time in 58 years on Sunday, April 13 (Palm Sunday) in a concert by The Chattanooga Bach Choir at 3:30 p.m. at Brainerd United Methodist Church.
The performance will be conducted by David Long, who also serves as the choir’s Artistic Director. The concert choir comprises 39 voices accompanied by an orchestra of 26.
Soloists for the work are soprano Cynthia Johnson, music instructor at Lee University and Music Director at Cleveland’s Broad Street Methodist Church; soprano Loralee Songer, tenor Ron Brendel, and alto Andrea Dismukes, all of Lee University’s Music Department; and baritone Brett Hyberger, voice artist and member of the music faculty at Chattanooga State Technical College.
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of Bach’s musical achievements, the mass is Bach’s only setting of the full Catholic mass. Much too long to have been written for use in a Catholic service, this mass is thought to be an all-purpose liturgical work whose separate parts were meant to be used in both Catholic and Lutheran settings. The mass was not written as a single work; Bach used a Sanctus from the Christmas liturgy at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1724, a Kyrie and Gloria written in 1733 in an effort to win the title of Court Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, many revisions of earlier works, both sacred and secular, and some fresh compositions minted especially for the work. He completed revising and composing the work in 1749 and 1750, the last years of his life.
A work of great variety, the mass incorporates compositions that reflect the style of Renaissance masters as well as multiple fugues, a great deal of text-painting, and even some theologically significant numerology, with many numerical references to the Trinity and thematic reiterations of 13 (completeness as illustrated by Jesus and the 12 apostles). The intricacies of the work would be the study of a lifetime.
Though there is no charge for the concert, a donation of $15 is requested. Students with valid IDs will be admitted without expectation of any donation.