American Kantorei Offers Bach's Sermons in Music

Article excerpt

THE WORLD has, arguably, chosen Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) as the greatest composer of all time, so it's no surprise that the local Lutheran community would dedicate its foremost professional musical institution and an entire concert series to his music.

Many of Bach's hundreds of church cantatas are settings of excerpts from various biblical sources, so that they are sometimes spoken of as Bach's own sermons in music.

For Robert Bergt, founder and director of the American Kantorei, which is in residence at Concordia Seminary's Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus, the Kantorei's series, "Bach at the Sem," is similarly a series of sermons in music.

Consisting of entire and excerpted cantatas and - later this spring - an organ recital, the "Magnificaticat" and "St. John Passion," the result is an amalgem of concert and church service, with collection and brief prayers, and without applause.

The series is enormously successful. Don't be fooled by the word "Chapel" - the church on the Seminary campus is quite large, and the Kantorei fills it without a lot of of publicity. Free admission helps, but the long-standing reputation of Bergt and the Kantorei is what fills the seats.

This listener first heard the Kantorei a few decades ago at Laclede Groves Chapel when I was fresh from a few years of listening to the Gregg Smith Singers. At that time I was impressed that our humble river city posessed a choir so able to create a similar sound - a small group of professional, adult singers with excellent tone and intonation and a great feel for Bach's music. …