Oberlin Cantata Project Concert

Event details

  • Saturday | October 28, 2017
  • 7:30 pm
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church

The Oberlin Cantata Project will perform a program at St. Paul’s on Saturday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m., which will explore early Lutheran sacred music in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s dissent against the Roman Catholic Church. The concert is free and open to the public.

The Oberlin Cantata Project, a student-led period instrument ensemble, will present a
program exploring early Lutheran sacred music in commemoration of the 500th
anniversary of Martin Luther’s dissent against the Roman Catholic Church. The program
includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Reformation Day cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
BWV 80, Johann Pachelbel’s double-choir motet “Gott ist unser Zuversicht,” the cantata
Alles, was ihr tut mit Worten oder Werken by Dieterich Buxtehude, and an orchestral
concerto by Georg Muffat.

Director Matt Bickett designed the program to emulate church performances of J.S. Bach’s
Leipzig years. As Cantor and Director of Music in Leipzig, Bach led the performance of two
cantatas (one newly composed, one from earlier repertory) and a motet for feast day
services at both the St. Thomaskirche and the St. Nikolaikirche. The three works with choir
(Bach, Buxtehude, and Pachelbel) suggest a potential program for a feast day celebration
for Reformation Day. Appropriately, both the Bach cantata and Pachelbel motet incorporate
the Reformation Day chorale tune “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (“A mighty fortress is our
God”)–the text and tune of which Martin Luther originally composed–and are therefore
ideally suited for performance at this 500th anniversary commemoration.

Following the research of musicologists Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott, Bickett formed
an ensemble modelled after the instrumental and vocal forces available to Bach at the
Thomaskirche. Limitations imposed by both the Leipzig city council and the availability of
student musicians from the Thomasschule kept ensembles small: the choirs had only
enough singers for one person to sing each part. The Oberlin Cantata Project, composed
mostly of students from the Oberlin Conservatory, performs similarly with a one voice per
part configuration, in contrast to the use of larger ensembles made popular after Bach’s
time. The period instrument orchestra also reflects a typical feast day ensemble in Leipzig
under Bach, and the combined choral and orchestral forces fit together naturally.
Presented with limited, mostly student forces and in the context of other, nearly
contemporaneous liturgical works, the Oberlin Cantata Project performance will offer a
rare chance to witness a Bach cantata nearly from the perspective of eighteenth-century
Leipzig congregants.