Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys features music for the Feast of the Ascension
by Beth Holub for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 5, 2018

Saint Thomas Choir, photo by Ira LippkeOn May 9, Concerts at Saint Thomas presents the season’s final performance by the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, in which the choir will sing music written for the Feast of the Ascension. The program features Bach’s Cantata 37, his first written for the Ascension, and his "Lutheran" Mass in G minor, as well as Vivaldi’s lesser-known setting of the Introduzione e Gloria, RV 588. The choir, hailed by The New York Times as "a polished, powerful and balanced sound...the best that New York has to offer," will be joined by soloists Eric S. Brenner, Lawrence Jones, Mark Bleeke and Daniel Moore, and accompanied by period instrumentalists from the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Daniel Hyde.

Bach’s Wer da gläubet und getauft wird (He who believes and is baptized), BWV 37, was composed in 1724 while Bach was in Leipzig. This was Bach's first cantata written for the Ascension, and is lightly scored with the SATB soloists and choir accompanied by just two oboes d'amore, two violins, viola and basso continuo. The text of the six-movement cantata is taken from an anonymous poet. Bach's Cantata 37 has been described by English conductor John Eliot Gardiner as “Emollient and graceful, a halfway house between a minuet and a waltz, affirming a more serene side to faith.”

Bach's Mass in G minor, BWV 235, known as a "Lutheran" Mass due to its shorter length, consists only of the first two sections of the Mass ordinary, the Kyrie and the Gloria. The G minor Mass was one of four shorter masses, or missae breves, Bach wrote around 1738, and takes much musical material from earlier cantatas. The interior movements of the six-movement work feature arias for various solo voices: bass, alto and tenor.

The lesser known of Vivaldi’s settings of the Gloria, RV 588, was composed in the early 1700s and is known for being the more musically challenging and intricate of the two versions. Speaking on the differences between the two Glorias, Saint Thomas conductor Daniel Hyde says that “Vivaldi’s ‘other Gloria’ takes some chorus movement form the well-known Gloria, but actually mixes them up with other compositions on the same text. I think it is really an accident of history that one has become better known that the other. I think there is more interest in the version that we are going to perform, because people will recognize some of it, but there will also be something new." Countertenor Eric S. Brenner, one of the soloists, notes that “For the alto, 588 is just juicer. It’s a little unusual, in that the alto is almost functioning in an evangelist role, which is almost always reserved for the tenor.”

Single tickets range from $20 to $75, and are available online at www.saintthomaschurch.org, by phone at 212-664-9360 or at the door. For more information about this concert, visit www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts, e-mail concerts@saintthomaschurch.org or call 212-664-9360. Saint Thomas Church is located at 1 West 53rd Street. The entrance is on Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.

Beth Holub of Unison Media plays viola and handles publicity for the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys.