Bach’s mighty Mass in B Minor by Ottawa’s Bach Choir

Having declared myself an Ottawa Bach Choir groupie more than a year ago, I was more than a little distressed when illness kept me from hearing any of their concerts last season.

A few nights ago I went to Dominion-Chalmers to hear Lisette Canton lead the choir in a performance of what many consider the greatest choral work ever written, Bach’s Mass in B minor. I brought the greatest enthusiasm with me and the music was uplifting. Unfortunately, I had to leave at the intermission for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a coughing spell that began near the end of the Gloria and lasted for the rest of the evening. And let me tell you, that was a huge disappointment.

I tried to console myself with the knowledge that in its original form the Kyrie and Gloria were all there was to this mass. It was what Bach and his contemporaries called a Lutheran Mass. I didn’t find that line of thinking too satisfying, though, so I put on a recording when I got home, starting with the Credo. It wasn’t the same. What I’d heard from the OBC was more engaging. That would be in part because it was a live performance and I was close to the stage, but the singing and playing were really special on their own account.

Aside from the choir’s customary virtues, there was an excellent team of soloists: countertenor Daniel Taylor, Soprano Agnes Zsigovics, tenor Jacques-Olivier Chartier and bass-baritone Daniel Lichti were the ones I heard. If I’d stayed after intermission I would also have heard mezzo-soprano Rebecca Claborn and baritone Geoffrey Sirett.

The Ensemble Caprice Baroque Orchestra, authentic right down to the valveless horns and trumpets, provided the accompaniment. In all, even the incomplete Mass in B minor was a musical inspiration.

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