An Urban Oasis - Guest post by Megan Balderston

Bruce has been recovering from eye surgery for the last couple of weeks, and has been necessarily absent from the blog. Therefore, a number of us from the choir will be giving our thoughts on the upcoming concert as he recovers. I expect he will have a new post up in the next week or so, himself. As the sometime-singing managing director of this ensemble, I’m sad to say I will not be taking my place amongst the first sopranos during the Passion. The reason is that I am the de-facto producer of this concert, and there are approximately a million moving parts to it. The St. Matthew Passion is a monumental work. We are splitting into double choir, and children’s choir (ably led by Chorale bass Andrew Sons, photo below), and presenting our wonderful period orchestra, and outstanding soloists, some of whom are flying in specifically for the work. We are building a stage to hold everyone in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, and that is an expensive and occasionally nerve-wracking project. Thank goodness for their Dean, Elizabeth Davenport, and her able staff for their thoughtful and methodical approach to fitting everyone on stage.

There are travel arrangements, rehearsals, communicating with everyone… and all the while working on keeping the general business end of things running. No, it’s probably a good thing that I am on hiatus as a singer. Unfortunately, that means that I cannot explain to you, as a singer, why this work speaks to me.  But I can give you a few really great reasons to join us on March 29th as we present the work.

Several years ago I was introduced to a gentleman in my neighborhood who, as one does, asked me what I do for a living. As I was explaining Chicago Chorale, he gripped my arm suddenly and said, “Do you perform the St. Matthew Passion?” He then proceeded to get teary-eyed as he told me how profoundly this work touches him, and made me promise to let him know the moment we programmed it again. In all of my life as a musician and arts administrator, I have never had someone break down while chatting casually about a musical work…and at a cocktail party, no less. I was reminded of this several weeks ago when one of our members told me that she makes her children listen to the recording in the car because “It is so beautiful that it makes me weep, and they need to know that kind of music.”

We have had a tough winter here in Chicago. Don’t you owe it to yourself to have a mini-retreat, right here in town? If you have not yet listened to Bach in the glorious space of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, while the afternoon light streams through the windows, you are missing out. Give yourself an afternoon of reflection and beauty.

Finally, as much as I love listening to recordings, music as glorious as this begs for the tension and drama of live performance.  When we get excited by something, we also are vulnerable. Singing this work is opening up our singers’ hearts and minds, and they want to share that with you. We hope we see you at our urban oasis: Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on March 29th.