East Penn Press

Sunday, February 16, 2020
Dashon Burton Dashon Burton

Mendelssohn 'Elijah' Bach Choir debut

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 by The Press in Focus

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem tours to the Washington, D.C., area, for the first time since 1999 for its premier performances of Mendelssohn's fiery oratorio "Elijah."

Performance dates include: 3 p.m. March 9, Millersville University; 4 p.m. March 10, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem; and 8 p m. March 13, The Music Center at Strathmore, Washington, D.C., area.

Under the direction of Greg Funfgeld, now in his 30th season as artistic director and conductor, The Bach Choir and Bach Festival Orchestra, joined by the Millersville University Keystone Singers (Collegiate Ensemble), perform Mendelssohn's choral masterpiece, which recounts the story of the Biblical prophet with vast and intense drama.

Dashon Burton, singing the title role of Elijah, has been praised in the New York Times for his "nobility and rich tone" and in the Wall Street Journal for his "enormous, thrilling voice seemingly capable of raising the dead."

Burton will be joined by distinguished soloists Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano; Marietta Simpson, mezzo soprano; and Mark Boyle, tenor.

Funfgeld chose Mendelssohn's "Elijah" partially in tribute to the significant role Felix Mendelssohn played in the revival of interest in Bach's music in Europe with his famous 1829 performance of Bach's "Saint Matthew Passion."

It has been of great interest to Bach scholars to discover that Bach performance in Bethlehem, pre-dates this revival. Parts for Bach's Cantata 80 "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A mighty fortress is our God"), transcribed by Moravian organist John Christian Till in 1823, are preserved in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem.

After the premiere of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" in London in 1846, The Times of London reported, "Never was there a more complete triumph – never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art."

In keeping with The Bach Choir's exploration of composers profoundly influenced by Bach, Funfgeld decided that his 30th year with The Bach Choir was an appropriate time for The Choir to give its first performance of Mendelssohn's sublime masterpiece.

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem gave the first complete performances in America of Bach's "Mass in B Minor" in 1900 and "Christmas Oratorio" in 1901.

The Bach Choir was founded in 1898 and last toured to Washington, D.C., in 1999 to perform Bach's "Mass in B Minor" at the Kennedy Center, as part of The Choir's Centennial Celebration.

Ticket information: bach.org, 610-866-4382