Eighteen voices and 20 — some playing authentic Baroque instruments — will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s expansive and exalted 100-minute choral mass on Saturday

Voices of Heaven concert a massive undertaking for RDSO

Think Bach, I mean, big. Eighteen voices and 20 musicians — some arriving from Toronto and Montreal with authentic Baroque instruments — will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s expansive and exalted 100-minute choral mass.

Think Bach, I mean, big.

Eighteen voices and 20 musicians — some arriving from Toronto and Montreal with authentic Baroque instruments — will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s expansive and exalted 100-minute choral mass.

The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Voices of Heaven concert on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Gaetz Memorial United Church is something of a behemoth. The glorious Mass in B Minor is difficult to sing and to play, and has also been hard to co-ordinate.

“It’s one of the biggest projects we’ve ever put together,” said music director Claude Lapalme.

With the guest list encompassing the VoiceScapes choir from Calgary, as well as two oboists and a flute player from Eastern Canada who are helping the RDSO perform Bach’s sacred work on authentic, period instruments, the concert is a “massive” undertaking, Lapalme added.

But the end result should be something people from this century rarely get a chance to experience — a mellow Mass that sounds much like what a baroque audience would have heard when the Bach work was completed, circa 1749.

Lapalme described it as a woodsier and less brassy presentation than modern renditions would be. This will be achieved by using antiquated wooden flutes and ancient-style oboes that resemble large recorders. The violins and cellos will be strung with sheep-gut, narrow trumpets will be played without valves, and a portable organ will be tuned to a lower baroque register.

Lapalme said RDSO musicians will performing on period instruments, which they either own or will borrow.

The exception are two of the RDSO’s regular contract oboists, who have opted to bow out of the concert, since their instrument has perhaps changed the most in the past 300 years.

The variations are so significant that only one of the RDSO’s oboists is confident enough to play the older form of the instrument, which differs greatly in sound, function and appearance from contemporary oboes, said Lapalme. Two guest baroque oboists are, therefore, being brought in from Montreal to make up the three players the Mass requires.

As well, a guest flutist is being brought in from Toronto to play a wooden baroque flute since the RDSO’s principal flutist Lucie Jones was sidelined by an injury.

After all the arrangements — including some musicians opting to get together in smaller groups to practise their parts — Lapalme believes the orchestra is ready to tackle Bach’s monumental work that will take listeners through a devotional journey of “extraordinary beauty.”

The glorification of God is evident throughout the expressive piece that Lapalme considers “one of the supreme achievements of Western art.” He cites its depth, the quality of the composition and the humanity reflected in it: “There are universal feelings, going from pleading to praise.”

At one point in the Credo section, the choral singers are lamenting Christ’s crucifixion in Latin, while the orchestra creates a pounding sound. “It’s very like he is being nailed to the cross,” said Lapalme, who added “sometimes (the work) can be extraordinarily descriptive.”

The origins of the Mass are murky. It’s Catholic in style, even though Bach was a devout Lutheran.

The work was composed throughout his life, starting from before 1724 to just before Bach died in 1750. While the Kyrie and Gloria sections were completed as commissions, the Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei sections were wrapped up later in the composer’s life — apparently for reasons of his own and not at anyone else’s behest.

Lapalme believes the prolific Bach, who could never stop writing music, might have simply seen the Mass as an ongoing project that needed completion.

Whatever his reasons for creating the Mass, Bach has left the world a remarkable piece of music that’s at once personal and universal. “If we do our jobs well, people should leave feeling uplifted,” said Lapalme.

Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $53.70 (51.70 students/seniors) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer teacher engages students with “cool” science experiments

On Thursday, he made fire dance to the beat of the music

Bower Place gets okay to redevelop

Red Deer municipal planning commission approves plans

Concerns raised about ice-cream-eating bear at drive-thru in Innisfail

Concerns are being raised about a video of a Kodiak bear from… Continue reading

WATCH: Marijuana in the Workplace information luncheon held in Red Deer

Central Alberta businesses need to prepare for the legalization of marijuana. That… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month