Choral Arts Philadelphia is presenting a new type of concert series with promising results. The idea is to break down barriers with several new features:
- The concerts only last about an hour
- They take place at 7pm on Wednesday nights
- They are "pay what you want"
This approach, according to artistic director, Matt Glandorf is designed to encourage as many people as possible to attend the series. This goal was inspired by the large number of citizens of Leipzig, regardless of wealth, who attended the cantata performances back in Bach's time. Is it working? If attendance of other concerts in the series matches the numbers I saw on December 18th, the answer is "yes!". In fact, my own reason to attend proved that their approach has merit. I was in Center City for a holiday party and I left early to get to the concert. Holding the concert between 7pm - 8pm means that you can go after work, after dinner, or even go out for dinner after the concert. Freedom from tickets or assigned seats allows audience members to decide to go at the last minute and know that if friends join them, they'll probably be able to sit together.
True to other Choral Arts concerts I've attended, the program was interesting and the performance quality was very high. Preceding Cantata #140 was Hugo Distler's "Wachet auf" which used the same text as the choral movements in the cantata but with a more modern orientation. A small chamber orchestra using period instruments performed Oboe Concerto in D minor by Alessandro Marcello then returned to accompany the chorus. The three oboes were all lacking the additional keys of modern instruments and the one that caught my eye was a curved tenor oboe (Cor anglais) that was the predecessor of the modern English horn. I especially enjoyed the accompaniment by Geoffrey Burgess (oboe) and Rebecca Harris (violin) during the two beautiful duets in the cantata.