Defeating The "De-Bach-Le": Spring 2011 Major Work Performance

By Keely Sarr '14

Bach’s Mass in B Minor tells a story of emotions, featuring moments ranging from jubilation to sorrow to pious awe. Like the piece itself, the journey to the Chorus and Glee Club’s joint performance of arguably one of the most important works in Western music history may have occasionally been as dark as Crucifixus but still managed to conclude strongly and successfully. Though learning Bach’s cleverly complex composition already required a great deal of commitment, the concert—originally intended to be a two-night series in Syracuse, NY—faced its greatest challenge when the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra unexpectedly shut down due to financial issues shortly before the weekend the performance was scheduled. Chorus and Glee Club officers, most newcomers to their positions due to the recent council turnover, immediately launched a campaign to recreate the Bach concert in another form. 

Slated to take place at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, a local venue in the Ithaca Commons, the resurrected performance would be accompanied by a group of players from the now-disbanded orchestra. To encourage more audience members to attend and support both the singers and the SSO, the choirs worked together to attack the Cornell community with a massive wave of guerrilla publicity—and each quarter-card and ludicrous Bach promotion pun proved worthwhile when the concert opened to a full house. The combination of an incredibly enthusiastic audience, the talented soloists and the skilled orchestral musicians created the perfect environment for the choirs to not only demonstrate what they’d practiced for months but also to perform this stunning work with the level of emotional investment it deserves.