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Ensemble kicks off Brown Bag Bach series

Published: Monday, October 3, 2011

Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011 13:10


ERIC CLAUSEN/Northern Iowan

Graduate students, undergraduate students and a faculty member from the UNI Cantoreri, Wind Symphony and Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra perform for the Bach Cantata series in the lobby of the Gallagher- Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Sept. 30.


ERIC CLAUSEN/Northern Iowan

Attendees enjoyed a little lunch musik during the inaugural performance of John Wiles' Bach Cantata series.

The series, also known as "Brown Bag Bach," kicked off in the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center lobby Friday as attendees ate their bag (or "Bach's") lunches during a performance of "Jesu der du meine seele" by members of the UNI Cantorei, Wind Symphony and Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra.

Performers included graduate students, undergraduate students and even a faculty member. The piece was conducted by Wiles, an assistant professor of choral conducting.

The cantata was originally a form of German church music. The text sung by chorus members was chosen to coincide with a certain event and is completely in the German language. Wiles elaborated on some of the history of Bach's cantatas at the beginning of the performance, explaining how Bach had written more than 200 in a mostly four-year period.

Based on the hymn by Jonathan Rist, "Jesu der de meine seele" featured seven sections in its half-hour program.

    The first was a light, airy movement featuring the chorus and instruments. The second was equally as plucky and featured two soloists: graduate student and soprano Kaethe Hennings and senior vocal music performance major and alto Samantha Kantak.

    The next movement was more solemn as it showcased junior music technology major David Wasserman's tenor voice. Wasserman's solo continued into the fourth movement, although this time the feel of the song picked up as he was joined by graduate student and flutist Bridget Hill.

    The fifth and sixth sections were led by bass soloist Rhys Talbot. The pieces were deep and full, and the sixth became more bouncy after adding junior instrumental music performance major William Jones on oboe.

    The seventh movement in the song included the chorus and instruments once again. This time the piece itself was slower, while still being emotionally moving.

    Work to make the Cantata series happen began in March of 2011. After coordinating with several groups with the UNI School of Music, the series was able to secure a noon time slot to perform.

    "The support of the entire School of Music faculty is truly the engine behind making this project work," Wiles said.

    The group for this specific cantata began rehearsals the first week of school and practiced one to two hours per week. While the rehearsal time was short, Wiles believes even a rehearsal experience such as this is beneficial to students involved, as he says it "is a timeline that reflects the demands of a professional musician."

    Wiles believes students performing in the cantata get real world experience by performing with others in a small orchestral setting.

    "J.S. Bach is recognized as one of the greatest composers of Western music, but his music is often underappreciated or not understood by today's culture," Wiles said. "Our music students now have the unique opportunity to consistently analyze and perform Bach's music. I believe that as the students learn to perform Bach, they will discover that they have developed insights into all other music, too."

    Graduate student and violin major Todd Williams believes the cantata series represents a unique opportunity for the general public.

    "There's no early chamber music performed around here," Williams said. "This doesn't happen very often."

    Junior Ashley Williamson, a choral music education major, believes everyone should take advantage of the ease of attending the series.

    "The Bach Cantata series is something UNI has never done before, and people should come experience amazing Bach music," Williamson said. "Plus, it's free and offers a casual setting where you can bring lunch and listen to 25 minutes of music while you eat. Sounds like a great deal to me!"

    The series will return with a performance of Bach's "Wer sich delbst erhöhet" in the GBPAC lobby on Oct. 21 at 12:15 p.m.

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