School of Music Historic Bach Performance

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More than 220 musicians joined forces Saturday evening for a historical presentation.

With Peter Jarjisian conducting, Ohio University's four combined choirs, Symphony Orchestra and soloists performed Johann Sebastian Bach's B Minor Mass in its entirety for the first time in Athens.

The largest choral composition in existence was Jarjisian's last concert as Director of Choral Studies at Ohio University's School of Music.

Jarjisian said the decision to perform this piece together was made about a year ago.

The University's choirs began preparation for the performance in the fall.

Choral Union and University Singers, sang the entire Mass, while its two gender-specific ensembles, Women's Chorale and Singing Men of Ohio, performed in the beginning and conclusion of the work.

"Choral Union has worked on this all year long in their Monday night rehearsals," Jarjisian said. "University Singers, I've woven it into the study of the other repetoire that we've been doing."

Senior Kristina Rowles, a member of both University Singers and Women's Chorale, experienced both levels of preparation throughout the year.

"In University Singers, each quarter we had about four to five different movements that we worked on and then would perform at a concert," Rowles said.

For Women's Chorale, the singers worked on about two to three movements per quarter and performed with the other choirs at quarterly concerts before performing Memorial Day weekend.

For 20 performers, preparation worked much differently.

Jarjisian invited alumni who had participated in his choirs in the past to be part of the historic presentation.

But, these singers were not able to practice with the other vocalists until the night before the performance.

Jarjisian said he challenged the alumni to learn the material on their own throughout the course of the year and come to the final rehearsal.

"Having worked with me for a long time, I think they knew the kinds of requests I would make in rehearsal and I certainly mentioned the resources we had used in the University groups," Jarjisian said.

Along with traditional rehearsal as a group, the choirs used recordings of the entire work, as well as an online resource called CyberBass, where each vocal line is separated from the others to help a singer memorize his or her part.

The performance showcased the University's voice faculty-professors You-Seoung Kim, Debra Rentz and Philip Christiansen as soloists.

"I think it was really great for the community to be able to see the voice faculty who were singing the solos, as well as the outside guests," Rowles said.

School of Music faculty member Paul Barte joined the Symphony Orchestra on the harpsichord.

Guest artists Katherine Rohrer and Andrew Blosser sang the alto and tenor roles, respectively.

Bach's B Minor mass was begun in 1724, but not completed until 1749; Bach himself never heard the entire work performed in his lifetime.