Individual voices bring Bach Christmas

The Victoria Bach Ensemble features violin, cello, trumpet and a pair of voices as they bring the season to life with a Bach Christmas.

David Barss on trumpet and Michael Drislane on piano

Lifelong Bach enthusiasts Michael Drislane and David Barss will bring the legend to life with a Christmas concert at St. John the Divine this Saturday.

The Victoria Bach Ensemble features violin, cello, flute, trumpet, keyboards, bass and a pair of voices as they bring the season to life with a Bach Christmas.

“We’re lucky because Victoria has a lot of good musicians. So it’s a great experience to work with people who really want to play,” Drislane said. “It’s one of those great music, great players scenarios that should be fun for all involved.”

The ensemble the pair started about a year ago likes to keep it clean and simple – one player per part. No conductor required, each player becomes a single voice.

“It leads to a very pure uncluttered sound,” Barss said. “It’s more of an intimate experience because you can hear every voice, with one cello you can hear the cello’s voice.”

“The first half is a lot of instrumental, we don’t have the singers until the second half,” Drislane said.

That’s when Victoria soprano Rachel Fenlon will perform.

“Rachel Fenlon is very, very well regarded in the musical community nationally,” Barss said. “She’s a first-call A-list player.”

Fenlon was chosen to be part of the  Vancouver Opera Association’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program in its inaugural year. Among other roles, she will appear as “Mabel” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

The concert will include  Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, chorale prelude Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland and selections from Christmas Oratorio, Cantatas 36, 51, and 140 Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, Art of the Fugue.

“The only one that maybe isn’t advent or Christmas is the Brandenburg Concerto,” Barss said. “My musical partner Michael Drislane who’s a brilliant musician, he’s doing the Brandenburg on the piano … Hearing the B5 on the piano it lives and breathes you’ve got dynamic range, it’s amazing.”

“We wanted to add something to the program that maybe wasn’t all Christmas. We’ve done this piece before and we got so many comments  (including) ‘astonished’ and ‘wonderful’,” Barss added. “It’s a beautiful piece of music regardless, and it’s not it’s like not Christmas.”

A Bach Christmas takes place Saturday, Dec. 22 at Church of St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra St. Tickets are $15 at the door. Students and seniors are $10.

“We always get a very good turnout,” Barss said. “We do it because we love playing Bach and we’ve always done our concerts at St. John the Divine, so any extra money goes to them.”

The players: The performance includes Sharon Stanis, violin; Maddie Reid, violin; Donna Robertson, viola; Alasdair Money, cello; Bruce Miekle, bass; Lanny Pollet, flute; David Barss, trumpet; Michael Drislane, music director and keyboards; and baritone Nicholas Allen.


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