SONGS OF HOPE
The Bach Choir of Bethlehem
Greg Funfgeld, conductor
After a first recording on the Analekta label featuring Bach's Magnificat and Vivaldi's Gloria, The Bach Choir of Bethlehem performs Songs of Hope, an inspired program of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Stephen Paulus, Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein (his Chichester Psalms).
All of the music on this album was commissioned, one way or another, for special occasions, in thankfulness for the past and in hopefulness for the future. Bach's stunning motet for double choir Singet dem Herrn, BWV 225, was composed either for New Year Day or Reformation Day. It was discovered in 1789 by Mozart, who listened with astonishment and said, "Now there is something one can learn from!"
American composer Stephen Paulus' A Dream of Time was commissioned in 2008 to mark Greg Funfgeld's completion of 25 years as the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Visually, Paulus's score may be reminiscent of a Bach cantata, but the tonal language is quite unique and choral writing most effective. It received its New York premiere at Saint Paul's Chapel in September 2011, as part of the musical commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb was commissioned in 1943 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of St. Matthew's Church, in Northampton. Britten set to music a poem by Christopher (Kit) Smart (1722-1771) which calls for God's creatures to worship the Creator, each in their own way.
Premiered in 1965, Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms is one of the most difficult choral works of the repertoire, as it is most complex rhythmically and in keeping the various choir sections in tune. Texts in Hebrew feature psalms by King David, musician and poet as well, whose role is taken on here by lauded countertenor Daniel Taylor.
Founded in 1898, The Bach Choir of Bethlehem is the oldest American Bach Choir and gave the first complete American performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor in 1900 and Christmas Oratorio in 1901. Under Greg Funfgeld's direction since 1983, the 100 dedicated volunteer singers of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, performing with the Bach Festival Orchestra and distinguished soloists, have received international acclaim. This recording is The Choir's second for Analekta.