Music News & Reviews

Bach choir's concerts bookend all-day marathon

Lexington has a number of choral groups but only one with a composer in its name.

"Bach's music is considered by many to be the height of Western music," says Marlon Hurst, director of the Lexington Bach Choir. "Certainly he took the music styles that pre-existed him to the highest degree of development. Bach is able, in a rarefied way, to combine the height of intellectual structural composition with the deepest of human emotion."

Folks who agree, or simply would like to hear some Bach, have a very good weekend ahead of them.

The 3-year-old Bach Choir will give its spring concert at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Paris on Friday night and at First Presbyterian in Lexington, where Hurst is the music director, on Saturday.

Between those events, Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church will present its fifth annual Bach Marathon, including performances of all of his cello suites, all day Saturday.

It might seem a bit nutty to toss the Bach events on the schedules of Hurst and his Maxwell Presbyterian counterpart, Clif Cason, as Palm Sunday and Easter approach. But Hurst says the marathon, which the Bach Choir has participated in, is timed to celebrate Bach's birthday on March 21. He also says the concert the Bach choir is presenting ties in well with the Easter season.

"That informed the selection of Cantata 78, which is concerned with our human condition and God's redemptive act through Christ," Hurst says.

It is important here to note that the Bach Choir does not perform works only by Bach.

The Saturday concert will include two pieces by Johannes Brahms, and selections by Samuel Barber, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and J.P. Sweelinck.

"Bach forms the core of our performances," Hurst says. "But it's interesting to hear Bach in juxtaposition with other composers."

This concert finds the young choir in a transformative time. Founding director Richard Sowers, formerly music director at Southern Hills United Methodist Church, recently moved to Williamsburg, Va., for a new job. He asked Hurst to take the baton, and since then, the Bach Choir has formed a board of directors and has established itself as a not-for-profit organization.

"We have grown and we have improved," says Susan Carey, one of the original members of the group.

And Hurst plans to keep the challenges coming. Among his hopes are to expand the choir from 14, all of whom audition for their posts, which include a modest payment, to 24 and to do more concerts outside of Lexington.

By adding musicians and concerts, Hurst hopes to expose more people to the work of Bach. And maybe it will have the same effect on others that it has on him.

"I always learn something when I approach Bach," Hurst says. "It teaches me about musicianship and it teaches me about humanity."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader