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J. S. Bach by the Strathgartney Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir

by Anne Bergstrom

The Strathgartney Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir, under the direction of Gerry Rutten, will be joined by the choir of the Kirk of Saint James, directed by Frank Nicholson, for a concert featuring solely works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach’s musical output was so prodigious that one could make many such programs without repeating anything. Says Rutten, “The variety of the program will indicate that Bach has provided a wide field of ideas to be enjoyed featuring material for choir, concertos for the keyboard, and solo material for voice.”

The Strathgartney groups were scheduled to perform at the Kirk this past December, a concert which was cancelled due to a snowstorm. In discussions about rescheduling, it was decided to have the two choirs join forces, and Nicholson suggested an all-Bach program. The piano soloist will be Fran McBurnie, a well-known Island performer and teacher who is also organist at the Kirk. She will be playing the first two movements of the Concerto in d minor for keyboard. They’ll be played separately, one on each half of the program. McBurnie says she played the first movement as a student at Mount Allison, but not with orchestra. It’s never quite the same with another pianist playing the orchestra’s part. The piece is “very collaborative­ the piano and orchestra play together all the time.” She finds Rutten to be a “precise, sensitive conductor.”

Nelleka Stam, a member of the Strathgartney Choir, will be vocal soloist for Bist du bei mir. She sang two solos with the group at its last concert in Crapaud in December. There will be three selections for combined choirs with orchestra: Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, O little one sweet, and Zion hears the watchmens’ voices. The choirs will also sing And grant me, Lord, to do, and another chorale, without orchestra. The two conductors will divide up the directing duties. The Little Fugue in g minor and the haunting Air on the G-string will be played by the orchestra, as well as the Sonata in g minor for woodwinds and cello.

The Strathgartney Choir and Orchestra were founded in 1998 to provide an opportunity for “classically trained or inclined musicians...to play or sing and develop their skills”. Gerry Rutten, originally from the Netherlands, received his music education in Canada and has conducted choirs and concert bands in Canada, the Netherlands and Germany, including many years as director of the PEI Regimental Band. For thirty years he was teacher and music coordinator for the Unit 3 School Board, and helped develop and implement the school instrumental program on PEI.

J.S. Bach’s musical genius was not appreciated until many years after his death. He was a humble man who considered he was simply serving God and his employers by composing music. Three hundred years later his music still sustains musicians and audiences, and an all-Bach program is to be anticipated with pleasure.

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