Johann Sebastian Bach once famously walked 500 miles to hear his idol, Dietrich Buxtehude, play the organ. With that kind of determination, you can be sure he would be proud of the Kansas City ensemble that bears his name.
The Bach Aria Soloists have displayed an admirable resolve throughout the pandemic to continue bringing music to the people, whether by streaming or playing in parks or tailoring socially distanced performances for schools and senior homes.
Now they’re hoping their new season will once again be mostly in-person.
The group is planning a high-quality year of music. “Bach Inspired,” the only streamed concert, will feature music by composers who revered Bach. The annual holiday concert returns to the atmospheric St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and in February, the group will perform a collaboration with Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. The final concert of the season stars acclaimed trumpeter Rodney Marsalis, who will finally make his much-anticipated Kansas City debut after having to cancel twice because of the pandemic.
“This year, we’re trying for everything to be in-person,” said violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane, founder and artistic director of Bach Aria Soloists. “The exception is the November ‘Bach Inspired’ concert. The Plaza Library has shut down its in-person events, so we decided to record the concert in the beautiful Village Presbyterian Church and then we will stream it at our website.”
Since “Bach Inspired” is being moved to Village Presbyterian, organist Elisa Bickers will have a chance to perform a yet-to-be-determined piece on the church’s magnificent Richards, Fowkes & Co organ.
Along with Lane and Bickers, cellist Hannah Collins and soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson make up the rest of the group. Anderson, who is always featured prominently, will have a special chance to shine on the holiday concert.
“Sarah will be able to perform a couple of duets with our guest soloist, Gabe Lewis O’Connor,” Lane said. “He’s a bass who used to sing with Chanticleer. Besides singing duets with Sarah, we’ll perform a couple of beautiful Bach arias written for bass, including ‘Ich habe genug.’ We haven’t had a bass soloist in quite a while, so it’s wonderful we get to feature his voice.”
Concluding the season is “An Evening With Rodney Marsalis.” Marsalis is the cousin of famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
“Rodney grew up in New Orleans with that whole Marsalis family,” Lane said. “They all studied with Wynton’s father, Ellis, and he went to the school that Ellis founded. But the interesting thing is that Rodney is not a jazz musician. He’s a classical player.”
Marsalis will perform a concerto for trumpet and organ by Bach and works by Handel and Vivaldi, but will also venture into film music and show tunes.
“We’ll perform the theme from ‘The Mission,’ that Rodney really enjoys playing” Lane said. “We’re also doing several songs from Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story.’ It’s an arrangement that Rodney often performs with his ensemble, the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass. We are so excited about this concert because Rodney is a great friend of mine and he’s an absolutely beautiful trumpet player.”
Here’s the full lineup:
Oct. 20: Musical Feast. Music with food prepared by 1900 executive chef Linda Duerr and wines chosen by sommelier Doug Frost. $150. The Restaurant at 1900, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Unit 1900, Mission Woods.
Nov. 13: Bach Inspired. Livestream from the Truman Forum Auditorium Plaza Library Branch. Free.
Dec. 11: Annual holiday concert. $20-$40. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 11 E. 40th St.
Feb. 26: The Bach Aria Soloists with Williams-Henry Contemporary Dance. $20-$40. Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Suite 301.
April 30: An Evening With Rodney Marsalis. $25-$50. Village Presbyterian Church, 6641 Mission Road, Prairie Village.
Tickets and more information at bachariasoloists.com.
As mentioned, the Bach Aria Soloists will perform a collaboration with the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company in February. This is a special for the company, which was founded by Mary Pat Henry and Leni Wylliams in 1991.
But first, on Oct. 1 and 2, Wylliams/Henry will celebrate its 30th anniversary with “Let Your Body Sing” at White Recital Hall. The program will feature the sort of diverse and varied contemporary choreography for which the dance ensemble has a national reputation.
“I think why we’ve lasted so long is that you get to see such an array of modern dance,” said Mary Pat Henry, the company’s artistic director. “And that opens audiences up to other genres that they might not see unless they are on the East or West Coast. We even go back to the early pioneers, which a lot of companies don’t do anymore, like Martha Graham and José Limon.”
“Let Your Body Sing” will showcase works by DeeAnna Hiett, Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith, Kevin Iega Jeff and a world premiere by Roni Koresh. Also on the program is Henry’s “Moore in Time,” inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore, and one of the company’s hallmark works, “Sweet in the Morning” by Wylliams.
“We appeal to all ages and all diversities,” Henry said. “Audiences and especially children can see themselves on the stage. They can see that dance is not for just a few but for everyone.”
7:30 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2. White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. $30. wylliams-henry.org.
This article was written by Patrick Neas and originally appeared in the Kansas City Star on September 25, 2021.