A blend of angelic voices and precise music resonated throughout the James Room in Barnard Hall during a Columbia University Bach Society rehearsal last Wednesday. Masterfully led by Kevin Lee, CC ’14, the performers exhibited an electricity that many classical and contemporary ensembles lack.
The members’ passion for classical music shines through in the presentation of their winter performance pieces—G.F. Handel’s “Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline” and J.S. Bach’s “Overture from Orchestral Suite No. 1”—which they will perform on Saturday in St. Paul’s Chapel.
The concert, aptly titled “Handel: In Remembrance,” aims to reflect on the Bach Society’s growth as a community by using pieces that express nostalgia for the past, as well as aspirations for the future. The performance marks fifteen years since the group’s inception. Since its birth, the ensemble has championed a strong sense of unity.
“We definitely try to foster a community, we hold a lot of events just for group bonding,” choir member and Bach Society Co-President Rebecca Fang, CC ’17, said.
Choir-member Laurie Pham, BC ’16, concurred. “Bach Society is not just a club that you go to. We have events together, we go out together,” Pham said. “This is the only outlet of music I have in my life. We’re not all music majors or heavily involved in music, but we can still keep each other together through music.”
Though the Bach Society is completely student run, the performers execute high-level pieces at a strictly professional standard.
“Singing emotionally is so necessary for this piece that we’ve really had to step up to the plate,” choir member Jessica Gruenstein, CC ’18, said of the choir.
The piece Gruenstein refers to is “The Ways of Zion Do Mourn,” which was the funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, and is the group’s song choice for the concert.
“There’s a lot of different emotions and complex interplay between the voice parts and the instrumental parts. I think it represents the diversity of feelings and the confusion that both a congregation and an individual would feel when someone as important as Queen Caroline passed away,” Gruenstein said.
Despite the difficulty of the pieces, the entire Bach Society ensemble rehearses diligently in order to achieve a flawless execution. In fact, perhaps it is their dedication to such challenging work that draws them together.
“We all really feel a bond when we do it. Since early classical music is so hard, you have to be really devoted to it to be here. So we all really enjoy it and consider ourselves a community and not just a musical performance group,” Gruenstein said.
The Columbia University Bach Society's winter concert “Handel: In Remembrance” will take place on Saturday at 6 p.m. in St. Paul's Chapel. Tickets are free.