Parkland Press

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Deshon Burton Deshon Burton
Kendra Colton Kendra Colton
Benjamin Butterfield Benjamin Butterfield

No myth: Bethlehem 'Creation' roots

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by ELIZABETH OUELLETTE Special to The Press in Focus

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem presents for its annual spring concert, Haydn's "The Creation," 4 p.m. March 30, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center St., Bethlehem.

The Bach Choir, the oldest known Bach Choir in the United States, aims to promote the appreciation of the music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and other great composers. Through year-round concerts and education programs, the Bach Choir reaches an audience of more than 20,000 from the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

Greg Funfgeld has been Artistic Director and Conductor of the Bach Choir since 1983. Funfgeld is a nationally- and internationally-recognized conductor. He takes great pride in the work of the choir.

"The Choir is made up of amateurs," he says. "These are people who are here because they love it. They are from all walks of life, all ages and stages. These are high school students, teachers, musicians and professionals."

Funfgeld says that every choir member has passed through a competitive audition process and must re-audition every three years.

Under Funfgeld's leadership, choir members, soloists and musicians worked tirelessly to bring beauty to the performance of Haydn's "Creation."

"There is so much to talk about with this piece," says Funfgeld. "There is a full symphonic orchestra. It's just incredible music.

"It's a magical piece based on the story of creation in the Old Testament. Haydn paints pictures with the music. As the strings come in, it's so magical, so evocative, and you can almost see the full brilliance of God's creation taking place."

Funfgeld praises Deshon Burton and Kendra Colton, soloists for "The Creation."

"Deshon is a superb human being," he says. "He is a wonderful singer who is at the start of a big career. Kendra teaches at Oberlin College in Ohio. She lives in Boston and comes to Bethlehem several times a year to perform with us. She is fantastic."

In addition to Colton, soprano, and Burton, bass baritone, soloists include Benjamin Butterfield, tenor, and, in the roles of Adam and Eve: Ellen McAteer and Trevor Sands in their debut with The Bach Choir.

Funfgeld notes that that the first United States performance of "The Creation" was in 1811 in Bethlehem, only 12 years after its first public performance in 1799 in Vienna. "There is a storied history to this piece here," he says. "It's just a magical performance."

Funfgeld will give a pre-concert talk on the music and the relationship of Haydn's oratorio to the City of Bethlehem at 3 p.m. March 30 in Fellowship Hall, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.