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BACH CHOIR OF BETHLEHEM

“By all accounts the chorus remains as vital an institution as ever… The B-Minor Mass performance was rousing, committed and touching… Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’ too was ardently and lovingly performed…”  

--New York Times

 
 NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION

Stan Barough

 

The roots of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the oldest Bach Choir in America, go back to colonial times and to the Moravians who settled Bethlehem in 1712. The Choir was founded in 1898 by its first conductor John Frederick Wolle, an organist at Central Moravian Church, and gave the first complete performances in America of the Mass in B Minor (1900) and Christmas Oratorio (1901). Since its founding in 1898, the now-famous Choir has been attracting thousands of visitors from across the United States and beyond to the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival, now held on the campus of Lehigh University. Greg Funfgeld, sixth conductor of The Choir, has been artistic director and conductor since 1983 and has expanded the programs of The Bach Choir beyond the annual Bach Festivals to become a year-round season of 31 concerts and educational programs with an audience of more than 20,000.  

Under Funfgeld’s passionate and experienced direction since 1983, the 100 dedicated volunteer singers of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, performing with the Bach Festival Orchestra and distinguished soloists, have received international acclaim. Performances have included the Herkulessaal at Munich’s Royal Residence and the Thomaskirche, Bach’s church in Leipzig, as part of the 1995 Germany tour, The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall as part of The Choir’s Centennial Celebration in 1998-2000, a performance for the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of an eight-concert tour of the United Kingdom in 2003, and a performance as part of the 75th anniversary of the Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival in Severance Hall, Cleveland in 2007. In September 2011, The Bach Choir represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a 10th anniversary musical observance of 9/11 in New York City, giving concerts in Saint Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church, Wall Street.   

The Choir has been featured on National Public Radio’s Performance Today and Prairie Home Companion, Deutsche Radio, the BBC World Service, CBS Sunday Morning, and the Emmy award-winning PBS documentary on The Choir, Make a Joyful Noise. A film based on the acclaimed Classical Kids CD Mr. Bach Comes to Call, was produced by The Bach Choir of Bethlehem in collaboration with Touchstone Theatre and GreenTreks Network in 2007. It has been broadcast nationally on PBS and is distributed internationally by The Children’s Group.  

The Choir has released eight recordings on the Dorian and Analekta labels including most recently Songs of Hope (2011) and Saint John Passion (2012).  

In addition to the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival, the concert season in Bethlehem includes Christmas and Spring Concerts; a Family Concert; Bach at Noon - a series of free concerts in historic Central Moravian Church attended by more than 6,000 people a year; and Bach to School, an outstanding educational outreach program for students in elementary, middle, and high schools.

The Choir has been recognized for its outstanding educational outreach programs (Bach at NoonBach to School, and interdisciplinary Family Concerts) by Chorus America (2010 finalist) and the National Endowment for the Arts (2011. 2012, and 2013 grant awards), and most recently by the J.S. Bach Foundation in Switzerland, which named The Bach Choir of Bethlehem as the first American recipient of its annual award to a single Bach organization, recognizing The Bach Choir’s outstanding work in Bach performance and education for young people (2012). Mr. Bach Comes to Call, a film based on the acclaimed Classical Kids CD, was co-produced by The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and is distributed internationally by The Children’s Group.