Arts / Performing Arts

Houston’s Bach Society is an Underrated Wonder — Discovering the Music in Our Midst

A 40th Anniversary Concert Builds Anticipation For More

BY // 01.03.23
photography Maria Lysaker www.lysakerphoto.com

As two uninitiated to Bach Society Houston and its integral position in the city’s cultural landscape, my husband and I exulted in our introduction via the society’s 40th anniversary concert presentation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. The concert, held in Rice University’s Brockman Hall for Opera, whetted our appetite for more of the German composer’s work.

For that splendid afternoon concert, we were the guests of board member Bill Caudell, whose special interest in the music of Bach extends beyond mere concert appreciation. His gift of a concert harpsichord, made to the society several years ago, will be featured in two of the society’s upcoming presentations.

Under the baton of Bach Society Houston director Rick Erickson with assist from music associate Ben Kerswell, the society will present the complete Brandenburg Concertos over two concerts to be held this spring at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The first is set for Friday, March 10 at 7 pm and the second for Friday April 14 at 7 pm.

Caudell’s concert harpsichord will have centerstage. The two-manual German style instrument was handcrafted by Dutch builder Jan Kalsbeek, designed after the style of 18th century craftsman Michael Mietke, who built a similar harpsichord for Bach in 1719.  (Two of Mietke’s instruments are preserved in the castle of Charlottenburg in Berlin.)

Known for its vibrant, historically-informed performances, Bach Society Houston was founded in 1982 at Christ the King Lutheran Church to present Bach’s cantatas in the context of a Sunday evening vespers services which was inspired by the example of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan.

Event 2022: Bach Society Houston performs Christmas Oratorio Dec 10 (Photo by Maria Lysaker www.lysakerphoto.com)
Bach Society Houston director Rick Erickson conducting at the Christmas Oratorio at Brockman Hall for Opera at Rice University. (Photo by Maria Lysaker)

Eventually and as a fully independent nonprofit, the society shifted to a professional choir and added a chamber music series. Today the society presents Bach Vespers, chamber music, organ recitals and special concerts.

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Next up on the calendar is presentation of the 300th anniversary vespers celebrating Bach’s audition at Thomaskirche in Leipzig with presentation of the cantatas performed at the audition. The concert will be held at the society’s home — Christ the King Lutheran Church at 2353 Rice Boulevard.

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