The Sistine Chapel, Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait with Two Circles,” the Mona Lisa — when you think of great Western artistic masterpieces, these are just a few that might come to mind. But on April 6, Louisville residents will have the chance to personally experience another: Bach’s Mass in B-minor.
Written one year before Johann Sebastian Bach’s death, the massive, multi-part composition is almost uniformly regarded as his crowning achievement — the masterwork of the master, if you will.
Though hardly ever performed in its entirety, due to its sheer size and complexity, it will be sung by the Lexington-based Kentucky Bach Choir and the University of Kentucky Chorale at the Cathedral of the Assumption.
The Kentucky Bach Choir — originally called the Lexington Bach Choir — was founded in 2007 by Richard Sowers. Sowers was a student of Melvin Dickinson, who was the long-time conductor of the Louisville Bach Society.
“But with the dissolution of the Louisville Bach Society, the board changed the name to be the Kentucky Bach Choir with the hopes that we would expand our market,” says artistic director Marlon Hearst. “So that we could take this music beyond Lexington.”
The choir now performs shows across the state, including the upcoming show in Louisville — which is a particularly challenging one. According to UK’s director of chorale activities, Jeff Johnson, he and Hearst have had many long conversations about the composition.
“We’ve talked about the B-minor Mass, and when we’d mention it we would both laugh because it is such a huge undertaking. You know, we had to say, ‘When are we going to be ready to try to do this,’” Johnson says. “We have to devote so much of our time and our resources to pulling off a monumental piece like this, but this is the year to do it.”
More information on the performance can be found here.