The Ottawa Bach Choir (OBC) is eagerly awaiting the new year as it prepares to once again take the stage at Bachfest Leipzig 2020 in Germany, the world’s largest celebration of Bach’s extensive repertoire of classical music.
Since its inception in 2002 the professional choir has built an international reputation, performing at world-renowned locations across three continents. The local organization brings together some of Canada’s most accomplished artists and choristers to celebrate Bach’s music and shed light on the vibrant classical music scene that exists in the Nation’s Capital.
The Ottawa Bach Choir was the first Canadian choir to perform at the German festival in 2014, which was “a thrilling experience,” says Lisette Canton, founder and artistic director of the OBC. Receiving an invitation to return to the festival as performers is an unbelievable honour, and a testament to the amazing members of the chorus, she adds. “We are really grateful and proud to be on this level and magnitude as well as to promote Canada’s talented artists.”
Bachfest is a nearly two-week long musical festival in Leipzig, Germany, featuring a select number of international Bach choirs and performers from more than 15 countries. The attendees will perform a year’s worth of Bach’s compositions, or 66 cantatas – pieces meant to be performed with both vocal and orchestral forces.
Following the June festival, the OBC will be venturing off on a Bach Pilgrimage, singing in churches and venues across Germany where Bach himself would have performed.
“Bach’s work meets us on so many levels – not just the musical level, but also on the intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels,” says Canton. “To be invited back to the festival to celebrate his music … I don’t have words for how important and meaningful that is.”
The choral ensemble also has an impressive discography. Its latest recording, Handel, Bach & Schütz, released on the ATMA Classique label, has garnered rave reviews, with American Record Guide calling it “among the very best” and Gramophone Magazine describing it as “staggering and movingly performed."
The OBC is no stranger to international touring. In 2016, the group was invited to China, where it represented Canada at the festival Meet in Beijing. The chorus will be returning to Beijing in 2020 as part of the China International Chorus Festival. The choir has also performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and in multiple cities across Europe, Canada and Mexico.
“We started touring in 2005, and I made it a point to do it early because I wanted our group to see what was happening on the international level,” says Canton. “I wanted a wider scope for this ensemble.”
Sharing the group’s love of music with the next generation is something that has also become an integral part of the choir. The twenty-person chorus participates in an educational program with schools in the area where they teach younger students about classical music, the history behind it and the importance of continuing its legacy. The choir has visited 45 schools to date and continues the program with more schools this December.
The OBC is looking to celebrate its announcement with the Ottawa community by previewing its lineup of cantatas and other festive works by Bach at a special Christmas concert, A Bach Christmas, on Sunday, December 1, 7:30 PM, at Knox Presbyterian Church. The pieces the choir will be performing, with the prestigious Ensemble Caprice baroque orchestra and Canadian soloists, are rarely performed so local residents won’t want to miss the chance to hear them in person, says Canton.
“We want to show Ottawa how important the city is on the international stage, and celebrate that one of its own has been chosen to represent the country,” she adds. “These Epiphany cantatas are never performed, and are unbelievable gems. It will be a new experience for people to hear this wonderful music during the holiday season.”
For more information on the Christmas concert or the Ottawa Bach Choir’s trip to Bachfest Leipzig 2020, visit their website at ottawabachchoir.ca.