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Bach Society’s Candlelight Tradition Continues

Kris Bueltmann

The Bach Society of Saint Louis continues its Christmas concert tradition on Tuesday, complete with a candlelight procession.

“Every time I maybe mention the Bach Society and their Christmas candlelight concert that they are performing, anybody I speak with will go, ‘Oh! Oh!’ and they kind of stop in their tracks because they do remember that procession,” soprano Jane Jennings said. “It’s riveting. It’s breathtaking.”

The candlelight procession will be after intermission.

“This is one of the very special parts of the concert when all of the lights are out and the singers are processing in from the back of each section of seating and the candles are lit and it’s just an extraordinary moment,” music director and conductor A. Dennis Sparger told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter.

Before the procession, the first half of the concert will feature selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” with Jennings, mezzo soprano Debra Hillabrand and tenor Don Frazure. Jennings, who recently moved back to St. Louis, said her challenge is to present material, with which many are already familiar, in a new way.

“So many times you can hear the ‘Messiah’ being sung, and I think it can come across as ‘Oh, I’ve heard this story before,’ as we all have,” she said. “But I think as a soloist, as a performer, it’s my job to make you feel like you are hearing it for the very first time. And I think that’s very refreshing for the audience member.”

In its 63rd year, Sparger said the society is striving for a more stylistically accurate baroque performance this year. “More detachment from one note to the next; a little more feeling of crescendo, diminuendo — that means a little louder, a little softer in the longer notes; a little more lightness and danceability in the music,” he said.

But the singing isn’t limited to the Bach Society.

“The St. Louis Children’s Choirs, both the concert choir and the choristers, about 130 strong, will be joining us for this performance,” Sparger said. “We always like to bring in a guest choir.”

And an audience sing-along in the second half will feature familiar carols.

“It’s so lovely to go to a concert and know as an audience member you get to participate,” Jennings said. “They love that.”

Related Event

Bach Society of Saint Louis Christmas Candlelight Concert

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014
  • Where: Powell Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.