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Virtual ‘Bach at Noon’ watch parties gather new audiences

After a summer of virtual “Bach at Noon” concerts, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem is continuing what has been a successful online venture, as it moves ahead with producing its fall “Bach at Noon” concerts online.

After the coronavirus (COVID-10) pandemic began, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem has been presenting its popular free “Bach at Noon” concerts on social media.

The virtual “Bach at Noon” concerts have generated “watch parties,” whereby fans gather in their homes to view the concerts online. The online concerts have attracted audiences from beyond the Lehigh Valley, Bach devotees who otherwise might be unable to attend in person.

“In spite of the heartbreak of our choristers not yet being able to rehearse together, there is a great deal of optimism about the musical connections we are making this season through our ‘Bach at Noon’ watch parties,” says Bach Choir executive director Bridget George.

“Our artists, students, loyal supporters and newly-discovered audiences near and far are all grateful for this opportunity to share live music-making together in new ways.”

“Bach at Noon,” initiated in 2005 and held on the second Tuesday of the month, was designed as a community and economic development initiative to educate new audiences about Bach’s music. It includes seven performances at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, and three summer concerts at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Allentown.

Bach Choir of Bethlehem Artistic Director and Conductor Greg Funfgeld introduces each program with an informal talk. “Bach at Noon” has been a huge success, attracting audiences of more than 8,000 annually.

Since going virtual, the Bach Choir has been hosting online watch parties, which George says “people have really loved,” and which have attracted people from all over the United States.

This season, concerts by a small ensemble of musicians who adhere to social distancing are digitally taped in Central Moravian Church. Because of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order restricting indoor gatherings to no more than 25, there is no audience. The concerts feature choral and instrumental works by Bach and other composers, introduced by Funfgeld,

“Bach at Noon” concerts include discussions with the soloists about the music and the atmosphere of performing during a time of distance and isolation for many.

The taped performances are streamed at noon on the second Tuesdays when the concerts would have been presented live. The next “Bach at Noon” watch party is at noon Oct. 13.

The program includes Bach’s “Sonata in C Major, BWV 1033,” featuring Robin Kani on flute; arias from Bach’s “Cantata BWV 7” and “The Christmas Oratorio,” featuring tenor Lawrence Jones, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Merciless Beauty for Tenor and String Trio,” a setting of poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Upcoming “Bach at Noon” watch parties are scheduled for Nov. 10, Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 9 and April 13.

George says the choir will continue to monitor the situation and update information about “Bach at Noon” concerts January through April.

“Bach at Noon” broadcasts have returned to WWFM The Classical Network.

The award-winning classical music radio and online station is listener-supported, and has offered a number of Bach Choir concerts in previous seasons. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Bach Choir’s programming on WWFM was interrupted , but its concert broadcasts have been added back to the broadcast and air at 1 p.m. the second Monday of the month.

Upcoming dates include the June 9 “Bach at Noon” airing at 1 p.m. Oct. 12.

Other broadcast dates are the July 14 “Bach at Noon,” Nov. 9; the Aug. 11 “Bach at Noon,” Dec 7; the Sept.15 “Bach at Noon,” Jan. 11; the Oct. 13 “Bach at Noon,” Feb. 8, and the Nov. 10 “Bach at Noon,” March 8.

To watch “Bach at Noon”: www.facebook.com/BethlehemBach; www.youtube.com/channel/UC5ACkCAuelxyx-If27gpW-g/videos

Donations can be made at: www.bach.org/general-donations/

PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEIN Bach Choir of Bethlehem Artistic Director and Conductor Greg Funfgeld, right, conducts Bach Choir during “Bach at Noon” concert, June 11, 2019, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Allentown.