Cathedral showcases Bach piece with period instruments

Early Music Society of the Islands presents J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor Aug. 6, at Christ Church Cathedral

The Early Music Society of the Islands starts its concert season early with a church concert, J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to create the sound that existed at the time of the composition of the music,” says James Young, the society’s artistic director. “We figured the acoustics at Christ Church are ideal for this repertoire. This is the sort of venue for which it was composed.”

Bach was music director at the Church of St. Thomas, of similar size as the Victoria cathedral, explained Young, an Oak Bay resident involved with EMSI since 1990.

“It’s been a fun experience to just see the society grow and flourish and become the successful organization that it has,” Young said.

In early years they organized four concerts a year and considered an audience of 120 a good turnout. Now they average well over 400 in the audience over nine concerts each season and the scale of those events has “grown in leaps and bounds.”

“It’s not even comparable any longer,” Young says. “Victoria’s a town that supports music. It’s always been a lively music scene here.”

The Aug. 6 performance will feature a full orchestra and eight soloists. EMSI collaborates for this show with three other major Canadian classical music organizations – the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, the Lamèque Baroque Festival in New Brunswick and Early Music Vancouver – to assemble a “dream team” of vocalists from all over the world alongside some of North America’s most respected period wind and brass players. Conductor Alexander Weimann leads an ensemble of eight internationally renowned soloists, a professional chorus comprising of some of the finest singers in the region and Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra on period instruments.

“As one of the largest scale works in Bach’s repertoire, it can only be achieved to its full potential with the combined talents of virtuosic vocal and instrumental soloists,” Young says.

Composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig, Germany in 1749, the Mass in B Minor was completed in the year before his death. It’s widely recognized as a comprehensive and deeply satisfying demonstration of the full range of Bach’s expressive capacities – from evocations of despair and suffering to exuberant expressions of hope and joy.

In this presentation of Mass in B Minor, vocal soloists undertake ensemble sections often performed by large choirs. The ensemble of vocal chamber soloists includes Yulia Van Doren and Shannon Mercer (sopranos), Krisztina Szabo and Laura Pudwell (mezzo- sopranos), Philippe Gagné and Charles Daniels (tenors), as well as Christian Immler, and Sumner Thompson (baritones).

Early Music Society of the Islands presents J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Christ Church Cathedral. Tickets are from $26 to $35 and available at earlymusicsocietyoftheislands.ca or by calling 250-386-6121.

“We’re always looking to grow our audience. We hope by putting on such a large-scale and dramatic production we’ll be able to do that, we’ll be able to appeal to people interested in great masterpieces,” Young said.

“There are still people who are unfamiliar with performing on period instruments in a period style. We alway are looking to get people … once they take the plunge they’ll see the advantages of hearing the music that way.”