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Classical View: A dance to Bach at “Greg Funfgeld Family Concert” sign of collaboration, learning

“The point of the family concert is that people from any age can come and enjoy themselves, learn about music and in this case, learn about dance,” says Dr. Christopher Jackson, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. “It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem presents “The Greg Funfgeld Family Concert: Dancing with Bach!,” 3 p.m. Feb. 18, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.

“All of the family concerts are designed to be collaborative with our community and for this concert the Bach Choir, several members of the Bel Canto Concert Choir and the Bach Festival Orchestra are joined by the acclaimed dance departments of Muhlenberg College and The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in performance of new work choreographed to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Johannes Brahms,” says Jackson.

“The family concerts were developed a little more than 20 years ago and collaboration is at the heart of those concerts,” explains Greg Funfgeld, Artistic Director and Conductor Emeritus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

“We’ve worked with terrific dance companies locally and we love to give them a platform for their art,” says Funfgeld.

“The great thing in working with dancers is they get so excited to be paired with live music; there’s an energy that comes with live music,” notes Funfgeld.

The concert opens with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066.” The composition date is presumed to be prior to 1725, otherwise, very little is known of why or for whom Bach wrote the piece. The movements are in the style of dance music similar to that written by 17th century French composer and dancer Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of King Louis XIV.

For the next two concert pieces, Funfgeld and Steinway Artist Eugene Albulescu provide music via “piano four hands,” a piano duet with two pianists playing different parts on the same piano simultaneously.

The first selection presents three movements of Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite,” originally composed in 1908 for piano four hands and which he then orchestrated in 1911. Each movement relates to a different fairy tale.

“Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52,” composed in 1869 by Johannes Brahms, is a collection of folk songs and love poems for voices and piano four hands. The work is premised upon a collection of poems by Georg Friedrich Daumer, Brahms’ favorite poet. The movements concern the many facets of love: longing, reluctance, denial, sadness, obsession, joy and rapture.

The program closes with Johann Sebastian Bach’s motet, “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230.” The work is one of only two motets by Bach in which the entire text comes from the Bible, in this case, Psalm 117, Verses 1-2. The date of the composition is unknown; however, it was first published in 1821.

“This concert is particularly engaging for a number of reasons,” says Jackson. “We have the good fortune that Karen Dearborn, Director of Dance at Muhlenberg College, is fluent in American Sign Language. Select members of the choir will be signing the final selection so when families come to this concert they are going to learn a bit of American Sign Language.”

In addition, the Baroque era had some very specific dance gestures, which the Muhlenberg dancers will demonstrate.

Says Funfgeld, “I’ve always come away from the family concert feeling uplifted and feeling like we’ve given a wonderful gift to generations. So, whether you are six or 60, there’s something to learn, something to experience, and these concerts make that possible.”

“The Greg Funfgeld Family Concert: Dancing with Bach!,” Bach Choir of Bethlehem, 3 p.m. Feb. 18, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem. Tickets: Bach Choir office, 440 Heckewelder Place, Bethlehem; office@bach.org; 610-866-4382, ext. 110 or 115; https://bach.org/tickets/

“Classical View” is a column about classical music concerts, conductors and performers. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO “The Greg Funfgeld Family Concert: Dancing with Bach!,” The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, 3 p.m. Feb. 18, Zoellner Arts Center, Bethlehem.
Greg Funfgeld