SF Girls Chorus, Bach, and Me

Like Glee. But with better music.

Next Thursday and Saturday (June 9th and 11th) the superb San Francisco Girls Chorus will be performing a remarkable concert of new works including an arrangement of JS Bach’s famous Wachet Auf Cantata 140 for chorus and string quartet by… me.

Cecily Ward from the Cypress String Quartet approached me a couple of months ago with the idea of combining both the chorale movement at the end of the cantata with the popular 4th movement. Rather than simply giving the girls chorus the unison tenor line featured in the 4th movement, (which would have been a waste of talented voices), Cecily wanted to be able to trade themes between the string quartet and the chorus, as an exercise in timbre matching. This would give the chorus an opportunity to sing some lovely sixteenth note runs, but also meant that musical lines that had no text associated with them would need some sort of syllable to sing. Simply singing “aahs” or “ooh” seemed underwhelming, so I was tried to find text in the chorale movement that would fit the melody and sit well on the voice. I’m quite happy with the results, which even managed to land an ecstatic “Hosianna!” or two on some of the extended sixteenth note runs.

The rest of the concert promises to be fascinating, complete with a world premiere from Tania Leon and works from Libby Larsen and Chen Yi. Thursday night is sold out, but Saturday night tickets are still available.

Funny… I remember the Girls Chorus singing with us at the San Francisco Symphony for a few Mahler symphonies back in the 2000s. They haven’t aged one bit!