I have just returned from the Super-Bach Concert by the Bach Cantata Choir at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. Led by Ralph Nelson, the forty-voice chorus performed two cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and a cantata by Johan Kuhnau with a small chamber orchestra and organ. This semi-professional choir is in its second season and intends to sing all of Bach's 200+ cantatas over a 20 year span. I found the concert delightful in many ways -- first and foremost, in the audacity to program it during the same afternoon as the Super Bowl (Indianapolis vs. Chicago). More than 150 people showed up to hear the choir and make a donation to its cause.
Note: I have sung with Ralph and many of the members of this choir while I was a member of the Portland Symphonic Choir.
On the program were Bach's Cantata #144 "Nimm, was dien is, und gehe hin" (Take what is thine and go away) BWV 144, Bach's Cantata #158 "Der Friede sie mit dir" (Peace be unto you) BWV 158, and Kuhnau's "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern" (How Brightly Shines the Morning Star). I heard some fine singing from soloists Nan Haemer (soprano), Irene Weldon (alto), and Jacob William Herbert (bass), but the highlight was tenor Byron Wright's performance in Cantata #144 and Kuhnau's cantata. Wright's voice soared with beauty, clarity, emotion, and excellent diction. He is a gem that we need to hear a lot more often.
The program notes included printed music for the audience to join in (in English) in movements 3 and 6 of Bach's Cantata #144 and in the final chorale of Kuhnau's cantata. It seemed to me that a majority of the audience was able to muster a goodly amount of sound to augment the choir and they enjoyed the chance to participate. Because the Bach Cantata Choir asks only for free-will donations, I think that they provide some of the best opportunities for Portlanders to hear quality performances. Be sure to check them out for their upcoming concerts.