Mar 6th Sun 4pm Music’s Greatest Choral Work, Bach’s Mass in B Minor at Heavenly Rest 5th/90St by Canterbury Choral Society

Outsized now by the grubby works of Mammon, the Church of the Heavenly Rest will rise above them in spirit to host the City's finest choral society on Sunday afternoon for a celestial performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor, the celebrated composer's most brilliant and glorious testament to the power of God to invest creative genius in his mortal supplicants

Outsized now by the grubby works of Mammon, the Church of the Heavenly Rest will rise above them in spirit to host the City’s finest choral society on Sunday afternoon for a celestial performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, the celebrated composer’s most brilliant and glorious testament to the power of God to invest creative genius in his mortal supplicants

The greatest and most tuneful heavenly choral music in the universe will be sung by the Canterbury Choral Society at their resident venue, the fine spacious Church of the Heavenly Rest at Fifth/90th Street, at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

Conductor Jonathan De Vries took up the baton of leadership at Canterbury Choral Society when its founder Charles Doddsley Walker died two years ago, and continues the tradition of presenting the finest choral works from musical history

Conductor will be the masterful Jonathan “Jon” De Vries, who chairs the music departments and teaches at St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s School. He has been rehearsing the orchestra and the 80 member choir for the last few months in the tall and elegant space, which he says is well suited for the massive work because “although it is built of stone walls it does not have a long-lasting echo” partly because the crumbling around the organ when it caught fire a few decades ago was never resurfaced. This is unlike the elongated echo at St John the Divine, he says, a church which is said to be even longer than St Peters in Rome, where to deal with that resonance “as a conductor you have to have your wits about you”.

Meanwhile he emphasizes that the Mass in B Minor was actually composed in parts from many previous works by Bach to tempt a patron to release him from the bondage of the church and that the sacred work therefore is full of melodic and harmonic appeal to the average mortal. From the musician’s point of view it is a demanding and rewarding adventure in playing a work where “there is so much detail, yet there is not a single extra note, for every note means something.” He points out that every listener enjoys a privilege withheld from its composer. “Bach never heard it, since it was never performed as a whole in his lifetime.”

Met star counter tenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum in rehearsal at Heavenly Rest on Friday for his Sunday performance of the Mass in B Minor

The soloists will be Mozart, Handel, Bach and Haydn specialist, soprano Laura Jobin-Acosta, Texan mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert of the classical alt/rock band the Knells, tenor Blake Friedman, soloist this season at the New York City Ballet, Met bass Matthew Anchel, and Met star countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum (whose name means ‘almond tree’). Mandelbaum debuted at the Met three years ago in The Enchanted Island alongside Placido Domingo, sang later at the Met in The Tempest.

The Canterbury Choral Society choir rehearses the complex harmonics and soaring spirit of Bach's famous B Minor Mass on Saturday under the firm but magical wand of conductor Jonathan De Vries

The Canterbury Choral Society choir rehearses the complex harmonics and soaring spirit of Bach’s famous B Minor Mass on Saturday under the firm but magical wand of conductor Jonathan De Vries

In rehearsals in the church concluding on Friday and Saturday the artistic director and conductor Jonathan De Vries demonstrated his famously sanguine temperament by congratulating the performers at frequent intervals on their flair for navigating the elegant but propulsive and richly satisfying turns of the music. “Really, really, truly you keep moving and moving!” he said at one point, and at the finish exclaimed “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!” He then asked the choir, “Can we thank the soloists and the orchestra?” and the 80 strong ranks of the singers, some of them home owners from the exclusive family neighborhood of Carnegie Hill which surrounds the church, burst into grateful applause, partly for him.

Tickets $25 b($20 seniors, $10 students) from Smarttix, from any member or at the door.
More details at the Canterbury Choral Society, where auditions are also available for those with choral experience who wish to join the Society.

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