Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Triumphant Return to Music with Bach's "Wedding" Cantata

Seven or so years ago, Teri Newville and I attended graduate school together at the New England Conservatory. It wasn't the easiest of times for either of us. We both wanted to hone our skills as performers and heading to Boston for grad school was our way of doing that. What we found at NEC was a fiercely competitive and high pressure environment that made us both eventually need a break from a life of music-ing.

Teri and I both ended up working together at Legal Sea Foods after graduate school for a year or so together, and in that time, we grew quite close. We spent many a boisterous night out on the town after working long days and sleeping less the night before. Burning the candle at both ends was fun for both of us and I think we needed it after our intensive study. It was a kind of escape from the art form that we both loved so much, but desperately needed to get away from. I eventually moved on to another restaurant and Teri, moved back home to California to be near her mother, who also wasn't well.

About two years time elapsed and on October 1, 2007, I got a phone call from Teri letting me know that she had moved back in Boston! I was so excited that I invited her right over to help celebrate Dan's birthday and we picked up right where we left off. We talked about music and the Renaissance, drank wine, danced, laughed, and had an all around good time celebrating with Dan. It was at that moment that I knew we had to perform Bach's "Wedding" Cantata together. Two years in the making, the performance now approaches in two days!

Cantata 202, the "Wedding" Cantata, is one of the few secular Cantatas that Bach wrote. It's a celebration of love of all types: emotional, spiritual, and physical (the guy had 23 children after all - he had to know a little something about lovin'). Bach sets most of the arias in dance form, avoiding the usual chorales and terse counterpoint texture in favor of sarabandes, jigs, and gavottes. The moods of the various dance-arias runs the gambit from profoundly intimate to downright bawdy. The soprano role dominates the piece showcasing the singer's versatility through both long soaring melodies and tricky melismatic passages that seem without an end. The inner arias also feature beautiful obbligato instrumental writing for cello, violin, and oboe. I'm always amazed how fresh and alive it seems every time I hear it, even though I've listened to it hundreds of times. It could well be the best piece of music ever composed, in my opinion.

I'm really excited to finally have the opportunity to perform this piece. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time, and the fact that I get to take this journey with people that I love makes it that much more special. It's a deeply felt experience that I want to share with everyone I know. I'm hoping you'll be able to make it to the performance on Thursday, December 10. Up to this point in my life, facing my fears about playing the oboe and conquering them has been one of the most exhilarating events yet - and a special thanks to Dan for his support and encouragement along the way. I hope that you will leave the concert feeling inspired to take on whatever challenges you've been avoiding in your life to make a change for the better.

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