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More Music for the Holidays, Operas Too

If the onset of snow has prompted thoughts of hibernation and you’re wondering where to find the energy for the rest of the holiday season, the Berkshire Bach Society will help you to wake up. Their next program at the First Congregational Church in Great Barrington, MA, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. is titled Bach at the Thomasschule. It features the Berkshire Bach Singers under the celebrated baton of Frank Nemhauser, singing three different settings of Wachet Auf.

   The Lutheran hymn tune Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake up, the voice cries to us.) was written by Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). J.S. Bach (1685-1750) used this tune as the basis for his now famous Cantata 140 of the same name and concludes with the choral harmonization which has become one of Bach’s most familiar and celebrated vocal works.  Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795), the third of Bach’s four sons, was the eldest surviving son of Bach’s second marriage, to Anna Magdalena Bach. His setting of Wachet auf can be seen as an homage to his father.

   The third setting comes from the oratorio “Paulus,†by Felix Mendelssohn, who, in 1829 at the age of 20, conducted a performance of J. S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,†the first since Bach’s death. Its success helped spark a Bach revival and made Mendelssohn famous.

   The soloists are Kristina Bachrach, soprano; Daniel Molkentin, tenor; and Bradford Gleim, baritone, who will also sing arias from other Bach cantatas. Tickets are $30; students free. Advance tickets are available at www.BrownPaperTickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006. For information, go to www.berkshirebach.org  or call 413-528-9277.

   Another opportunity to hear music from Cantata 140 comes Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, NY, when Concerts Con Brio presents an Advent Lessons and Carols service, followed by excerpts from the classic children’s opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.†It made its debut in 1951 as the first opera commissioned for television. Composer Gian-Carlo Menotti adapted an Italian folk tale about a little lame shepherd boy whose offer to give the baby Jesus his crutch transforms his life.The opera was an instant success, and in the ensuing years has been performed all over the world hundreds of thousands of times. Children will be enthralled by this opera’s lively music, humor and dancing (by the Poughkeepsie City Ballet) and its powerful message of the power of giving. The 30-member chorus is under the baton of music director Laura Russell. Admission is free. A freewill donation will be collected during the service at 20 Carroll St., Poughkeepsie, NY. For information, call 845-452-8220 or go to www.christchurchpok.org.

   Another opera presentation, Verdi’s “Don Carlo,†will have an encore presentation from the Met in HD at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, MA and the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, NY, Dec. 18 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets at www.mahaiwe.org and 413-528-0100 or www.bardavon.org. 845-473-4259

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