Bach to the Future

Buffalo Bach Project Intriguingly Mixes the Old and the New

by Jan Jezioro

The young and innovative musicians of the Buffalo Bach Project will make their Friends of Vienna debut this Sunday at 3:30pm in the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue, in the final concert of the FOV’s current season. Soprano Maria Lindsey, oboist and French horn player Megan Kyle, cellist Katie Weissman and harpsichordist and pianist Garrett Martin, will present arias from six different Bach cantatas, interspersed with several intriguing modern compositions, as the group’s spokeswoman, Megan Kyle, explains.

“We played our first concert at Williamsville United Methodist Church in June of 2014”, says Megan. “Bach arias have long been a prized part of oboists’ repertoire, as they present a uniquely rewarding challenge. When I met Maria through mutual friends, I was thrilled to find such an accomplished singer in our midst, and I immediately began scheming to perform Bach with her. Finding musicians for the basso continuo part was easy, as I’d already played with cellist Katie Weissman and with Michael McNeill, our original keyboardist, in other ensembles. Given our diverse musical interests, we quickly came up with the idea to branch out from strictly performing Bach arias to including relevant contemporary music. We wanted to somehow bring the ineffable beauty and timeless humanity of Bach’s vocal works into a modern context”.

“Our vision for the Buffalo Bach Project has been to combine Bach’s vocal works with 20th and 21st century pieces that we feel conceptually or sonically compliment Bach’s music. Our interpretation of this idea changes from concert to concert. Sunday’s concert draws out parallels between ways of understanding the world in Bach’s time and now. Bach’s cantatas were written for Lutheran church services, and consequently the world is seen in these works through the lens of worshipping the Christian God. In or more secularized era, both the worship of nature and the understanding of morality through a humanistic lens have emerged, from religious roots, to fill the role that religion did previously”.

“Cyril Scott’s Idyllic Fantasy and Kai Nieminen’s In Der Winterzeit each explore nature through a human filter. Descriptions of the sublime beauty of nature can be seen as a modern corollary to the glorification of God’s creation in Bach’s time. In a secularized era, spirituality around nature is often a replacement for the worship of a specific god. Scott’s Idyllic Fantasy invokes an idealized, magical version of the natural world, an interpretation of nature colored by human imagination. In Nieminen’s In Der Winterzeit (In the winter time), the inscription “in memoriam Paul Klee” brings to mind the Swiss-German artist Klee’s playful, abstracted art, since although we seem to hear sparse bird calls in a turbulent wintry landscape, the scene is enveloped within a human construct. Finally, American composer John Adams’ opera Nixon in China, from which the aria “This is Prophetic” is taken, is representative of a shift in recent operas from mythological or religious stories to contemporary political ones. Pat Nixon’s dreamy and naïve musings on the futures of China and the United States are given a beautiful and haunting musical setting, elevating the text in the same way that Bach’s cantatas elevated their religious texts”.

“We’d like to add that we are so thrilled to be performing with Garrett Martin for the first time as our new keyboardist”, says Megan. “When Mike McNeill moved to Austin last summer we didn’t know how we could replace him, but Garrett is wonderful, and we are excited for the BBP to be continuing in this slightly different form”.

Tickets: $10; $5 students. Information: www.friendsofvienna.org