Chicago Bach Project 2015: St. John Passion

John Nelson with Nick Phan and Matthew Brooks

John Nelson conducting the Chicago Bach Project
(with soloists Nicholas Phan and Matthew Brook)

CHICAGO BACH PROJECT 2015

Johann Sebastian Bach

St. John Passion, BWV 245

March 20, 2015

Fittingly, on the eve of Bach's 330th birthday, SDG presented the fifth installment of the Chicago Bach Project on March 20, 2015. Hailed as an "Event, with a capital E" by the Chicago Sun Times, this year's performance featured The Passion according to St. John by Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

John Nelson, conductor

Nicholas Phan, Evangelist
Stephen Morscheck, Jesus
Lisette Oropesa, soprano
Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor
John Tessier, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass-baritone

James MacMillan
Alpha and Omega
Chicago Bach Choir
Donald Nally, conductor

 

Chicago Bach Project St. John Passion 2015
Chicago Bach Choir and Orchestra performing Bach's St. John Passion, Harris Theater, Chicago

Maestro John Nelson, along with the Chicago Bach Choir and Orchestra and a world-class roster of soloists, gathered at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance to present this Bach masterpiece in what has quickly become a Chicago tradition during the Lenten season. Using words such as "powerful" (Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts), "profound" (Chicago on the Aisle), "thrilling" (Chicago Sun Times), "inspired" (Chicago Classical Review), and "one of the best" (Chicago Tribune), reviewers heaped accolades on the entire production.

John Nelson conducting the St. John Passion
Maestro John Nelson

Nelson's fervent shaping of Bach's magnificent choral statements and practiced feeling for the arching drama told in countless ways." (Chicago Tribune)

at once thrilling, haunting and deeply moving . . .
a transformative, involving emotional journey.”
(Chicago Sun Times)

a profoundly affecting musical experience … surely belongs among the concerts that will endure in memory.”
(Chicago on the Aisle)

Stephen Morscheck singing the St. John Passion
Stephen Morscheck
Jesus
Nicholas Phan singing the St. John Passion
Nicholas Phan,
Evangelist
Lisette Oropesa singing the St. John Passion
Lisette Oropesa,
soprano

 

Lawrence Zazzo singing the St. John Passion
Lawrence Zazzo,
countertenor
John Tessier singing the St. John Passion
John Tessier,
tenor
Matthew Brook singing the St. John Passion
Matthew Brook,
bass-baritone

an urgently dramatic account of Bach's "St. John Passion" . . . the fifth installment of the series . . . it was also one of the best.” (Chicago Tribune)

an inspired performance . . . the conductor conveys the reverential quality with a natural eloquence.” (Chicago Classical Review)

a powerful and deeply personal presentation of this important sacred score, and because of that, one of the most uniquely significant concerts in Chicago this season.”
(Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts)

Donald Nally conducting
Donald Nally conducting
MacMillan's Alpha and Omega

The evening also launched a new tradition for the Chicago Bach Project: featuring an SDG-commissioned work to open the program. Alpha and Omega (2011), a six-minute a cappella choral work by renowned composer James MacMillan, was performed by the Chicago Bach Choir under the direction of Donald Nally. As Board Chairman Johann Buis put it, the juxtaposition of new and old provided an opportunity to hear texts by the same author, St. John, set to music by composers living about 330 years apart. The setting of Alpha and Omega was inspired by a passage in St. John's Book of Revelation, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth." Chicago Tribune critic, John von Rhein, commented that "the music's deep religiosity, expressed in intense tonal harmonies, came across splendidly."

Long after the echoes of the evening's music subsided, the effects of the musical experience continued to resonate. As one reviewer described it, "I walked out into the brisk spring night air with a singular sense of privilege" (Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle).

 

Harris Theater logo

Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60601

 

CHICAGO BACH PROJECT PHOTOS COURTESY OF EELAN PHOTOGRAPHY