Welcome to Meg Bragle!

Our performances of Handel’s La Resurrezione will feature the long-awaited ABS debut of Meg Bragle, an American mezzo-soprano who has worked with some of the most highly regarded Baroque ensembles in the world, including the English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardner, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. ABS caught up with Meg to hear some of her thoughts about her career, her desire to work with Jeffrey Thomas, and her role in La Resurrezione.

Meg Bragle

You’ve found a lot of success performing Baroque music. How did you come to realize you had a certain affinity for this repertoire? Was it a specific performance or opportunity?

I feel incredibly lucky to have found my way to Baroque music. It’s hard to say that there was one defining moment—rather that many threads of my musical life drew me to the repertoire and approach to music-making. Certainly one of the most important and compelling elements for me is the collaborative spirit that pervades the genre. I love that feeling you get when everyone is on the same wave length and music happens.   

What excites you about working with Jeffrey Thomas and ABS for the first time?

Jeffrey is one of the foremost conductors in the American Baroque scene, and I’ve been looking forward to working with him for a long time. I love that he is both a singer and conductor, and I think that this gives him a unique approach to music-making.

Does your preparation change when you are about to work with an ensemble for the first time rather than a group with which you’re already familiar?

I don’t think so. It’s always exciting to work with a new group, and the process of getting to know an ensemble when working together for the first time is always something I look forward to. But really my preparation is focused on the music and text. Once you arrive and start working with the other musicians, that’s when the piece takes on a different life of its own—each group has its own musical identity and approach.  The trick is finding your way with them toward the common goal of an expressive and compelling performance.

Given your considerable opera experience, how do you incorporate your acting abilities, if at all, for oratorio performances such as La Resurrezione? In other words, do you still “act” your role while stationary?

I think oratorio requires more of a singer in some ways because you aren’t dependent on costumes, sets, or choreography to bolster the action. The text is paramount, and it is so important to remember that Handel’s original audiences expected to be moved when attending the first performances, since they were deprived of opera at the time (a papal ban prohibited operatic performances in Rome when La Resurrezione was premiered). I think my primary job is to communicate with the audience: to take the words and music Handel wrote and draw people into the drama.

What would you like the audience to know about your role as Mary Cleophas? Is there something interesting that they should listen for?

Mary Cleophas is a mysterious figure in the Bible, and not much is known of her except that she was one of the women present at the Crucifixion of Jesus. Despite that, Handel has written some wonderful and expressive music for this rather unknown woman. La Resurezzione is full of musical delights and the writing is so expressive. I hope the audience enjoys every minute!

HANDEL: La Resurrezione

Nola Richardson, soprano (Mary Magdalene)
Mary Wilson, soprano (Angel)
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano (Mary Cleophas)
Kyle Stegall, tenor (John the Evangelist)
Jesse Blumberg, baritone (Lucifer)
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Friday May 5 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE

Saturday May 6 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, 2407 Dana Street, BERKELEY

Sunday May 7 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, SAN FRANCISCO

Monday May 8 2017 7:00 pm
​Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS

Meet the Vocal Soloists for Handel’s “La Resurrezione”

Composed and first performed during his youthful sojourn in Rome, Handel’s 1708 work is a marvel of creative power and imagination. La Resurrezione, a truly operatic oratorio, scandalized the Vatican (opera was prohibited in Rome by Papal edict at the time) yet assured Handel’s place as the new master of Italian operatic style. Heaven and Hell—embodied in an Angel and Lucifer—battle for supremacy on earth through this dramatic telling of the emotions and convictions of Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleophas, and John the Evangelist. The score demands bravura performances from singers and instrumentalists alike. ABS Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas conducts an outstanding cast of leading Handelians in this early example of the composer’s brilliance.

Mary WilsonMary Wilson (soprano) is acknowledged as one of today’s most exciting artists, with Opera News heralding her first solo recording, Mary Wilson Sings Handel, as one of their “Best of the Year.” Cultivating a wide-ranging career singing chamber music, oratorio, and operatic repertoire, her “bright soprano seems to know no terrors, wrapping itself seductively around every phrase” (Dallas Morning News). Receiving consistent critical acclaim from coast to coast, “she proves why many in the opera world are heralding her as an emerging star. She is simply amazing, with a voice that induces goose bumps and a stage presence that is mesmerizing. She literally stole the spotlight …” (Arizona Daily Star). An exciting interpreter of Baroque repertoire, “with a crystal clear and agile soprano voice perfectly suited to Handel’s music” (Early Music America), she has appeared with American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque, Musica Angelica, Boston Baroque, Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Casals Festival, and the Carmel Bach Festival. In high demand on the concert stage, she has recently appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony of Costa Rica, at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, to list but a few. She has frequently worked with conductors Jeffrey Thomas, Martin Haselböck, Bernard Labadie, Nicholas McGegan, Martin Pearlman, and Leonard Slatkin. With the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, she sang the World Premiere of the song cycle Songs Old and New written especially for her by Ned Rorem. She was named an Emerging Artist by Symphony Magazine in the publication’s first ever presentation of promising classical soloists on the rise. On the opera stage, she is especially noted for her portrayals of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susannah in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Gilda in Rigoletto. She has created roles in world premiere performances of Dove’s Flight, Glass’ Galileo Galilei, and Petitgirard’s Joseph Merrick dit L’Elephant Man. A national finalist of the 1999 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, she has appeared with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Memphis, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and many others. Ms Wilson holds vocal performance degrees from St. Olaf College and Washington University in St. Louis. She is an Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Memphis where she resides with her husband, son, and two dogs.

Nola RichardsonNola Richardson (soprano), a participant in the ABS Academy in 2012 and 2013, has received attention for the “precision and clarity” of her voice and the sensitivity of her interpretations, particularly in the Baroque repertoire. Her operatic roles include Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Madame Silberklang in Der Schauspieldirektor with Bel Cantanti Opera, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Maryland Concert Opera, Gianetta in L’elisir D’amore with Emerald City Opera, Calisto in La Calisto with Peabody Opera Theater, the Child in Lux et Tenebrae with The Figaro Project (a world premiere), and the Dew Fairy and Gretel (cover) in Hansel and Gretel with Chesapeake Chamber Opera and Maryland Concert Opera. In addition to her operatic work, Ms. Richardson frequently appears in concerts throughout the United States. She presents recitals of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music which have included performances for the opening of the exhibit Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the Walters Art Gallery and a featured performance in the Boston Early Music Fringe Festival. She has performed Bach›s Mass in B Minor with the American Bach Soloists Academy and the Bach Concert Series, Schubert›s Mass in G Major and Handel›s Messiah with Hood College and the US Naval Academy, Bach›s Jauchzett Gott in allen Landen with the Bach Sinfonia, and Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Ms. Richardson also has appeared as a soloist with Tempesta di Mare and recently performed in concert as part of the Early Music Series at the Walters with trumpeter Andrew Balio of the BSO featuring virtuosic Baroque repertoire for trumpet and soprano. Ms. Richardson also performs as a member of the medieval ensemble, Eya, and her voice can be heard on the recording Concerto delle Donne with Heaven’s Noyse present the Music of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani. She is the official cantor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation and the Episcopalian Diocese of Maryland and she frequently performs as a professional chorister and soloist with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Chantry, and Cathedra, at the Washington National Cathedral. Ms. Richardson will be releasing her first album of lute songs with John Armato in June. This summer she will appear as a young artist and cover the title role in the Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Handel’s Almira and return for a second season with the American Bach Soloists. She has taught voice for over six years, combining pedagogy studies with performance experience, and considers teaching to be a valuable part of her career as a musician. She has presented workshops to singers from all over Maryland on choral diction and vocal technique. She holds two Master of Music degrees in Vocal Performance/Pedagogy and Early Music from the Peabody Conservatory, and has studied under sopranos Phyllis Bryn-Julson and Ah Hong. She was the first soprano to ever be accepted into both the Yale Voxtet and DMA programs.

Meg BragleMeg Bragle (mezzo-soprano), widely praised for her musical intelligence and “expressive virtuosity” (San Francisco Chronicle), is quickly earning an international reputation as one of today’s most gifted and versatile artists. As a featured soloist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, she has made four recordings with the group, including Bach’s Easter and Ascension Oratorios—the vehicle for her BBC Proms debut—and the Fall 2015 release of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Ms. Bragle has sung in North America and Europe with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Les Violons du Roy, Apollo’s Fire, and the Dunedin Consort. Highlights of her 2016-17 season include appearances with Milwaukee Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem), Cincinnati Symphony (Bach’s Mass in B Minor), St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater), Dunedin Consort (Handel’s Messiah), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Bach Lutheran Masses), and Early Music Vancouver (Bach’s Magnificat). Bragle also performs this season at the Winter Park, Carmel Bach, and London Baroque Festivals, with Voices of Music, and Catacoustic Consort. Other recent highlights include Bruno Moretti’s Vespro with New York City Ballet, tours of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and “Christmas Oratorio” with the Netherlands Bach Society, and Bach’s Lutheran Masses with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Her recent opera roles include Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Dido and the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Dardano in Handel’s Amadigi, Amastre in Handel’s Serse, Speranza in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Ippolita in Cavalli’s Elena, and Elpina in Vivaldi’s La Fida Ninfa. Ms. Bragle is an accomplished recording artist.  In addition to those with the English Baroque Soloists, she has made several recordings with Apollo’s Fire: Mozart’s Requiem (Koch), Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Avie), and Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (Avie), and L’Orfeo (Eclectra). Other recordings include Cozzolani’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and Messa Paschale with Magnificat (Musica Omnia), “Music of Medieval Love” with New York’s Ensemble for Early Music (Ex Cathedra), Toby Twining’s Chrysalid Requiem (Cantaloupe), Anthony Newman’s Requiem (Khaeon World Music), and Copland’s In the Beginning with the late John Scott and the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys (New York City) and the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte on their own labels.

Kyle StegallKyle Stegall (tenor), also an alumnus of the ABS Academy (2013), has been praised for his “lovely tone and ardent expression” (New York Times), as well as his “lively and empathetic delivery” (San Francisco Classical Voice). His career has taken him around the world as a specialist in music of the Baroque.  An artist who communicates equally well on concert, opera, and recital stages, his performances are characterized by an unfailing attention to style and detail. Mr. Stegall’s successful solo debuts in Japan, Australia, Vienna, Italy, Singapore, and Canada as well as on major stages across America have been in collaboration with many of the world’s most celebrated conductors including Jeffrey Thomas, William Christie, Joseph Flummerfelt, and Manfred Honeck among others.  Heard frequently as Evangelist and tenor soloist in the passions and cantatas of J.S. Bach, Mr. Stegall made his Lincoln Center debut as the Evangelist in the St. John Passion under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki. Other concert work also figures prominently in Mr. Stegall’s seasons including the oratorios of Handel and Haydn, the great masses of Mozart and Beethoven, and choral-orchestral works from the bel canto and 20th-century canon.  Mr. Stegall’s “ability to absorb viewers into the action, something which is rarely achieved in opera” (San Francisco Classical Voice), has made him a popular choice for leading lyric tenor roles in stage repertoire spanning the entire Western Music tradition. Upcoming performances include the Evangelist in Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” with The Bach Society of St. Louis, recital appearances in Melbourne, Sonoma, and the role of Endimione in West Edge Opera’s summer festival production of Martin y Soler’s L’abore di Diana.  Mr. Stegall holds degrees from the universities of Missouri, Michigan, and Yale, and maintains a schedule of private teaching and guest masterclasses throughout each season.

Jesse BlumbergJesse Blumberg (baritone) is equally at home on opera, concert, and recital stages, performing repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque to the 21st century. His performances have included the world premiere of The Grapes of Wrath at Minnesota Opera, Niobe, Regina di Tebe with Boston Early Music Festival, Bernstein’s MASS at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and appearances with Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. Recital highlights include appearances with the Marilyn Horne Foundation and New York Festival of Song, and performances of Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise with pianist Martin Katz. He has performed major works with American Bach Soloists, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Boston Baroque, Oratorio Society of New York, Apollo’s Fire, Charlotte Symphony, TENET/Green Mountain Project, and on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. Mr. Blumberg has given the world premieres of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Green Sneakers, Lisa Bielawa’s The Lay of the Love and Death, Conrad Cummings’ Positions 1956, and Tom Cipullo’s Excelsior. He also works closely with several other renowned composers as a member of the Mirror Visions Ensemble. He has been featured on a dozen commercial recordings, including the 2014 Grammy-winning Charpentier Chamber Operas with Boston Early Music Festival. He has been recognized in several competitions, and was awarded Third Prize at the 2008 International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau, becoming its first American prizewinner in over thirty years.  He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and received undergraduate degrees in History and Music from the University of Michigan. He is also the founder and artistic director of Five Boroughs Music Festival, which brings chamber music of many genres to every corner of New York City.

Friday, May 5, 2017, 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, May 6, 2017, 8:00 pm – First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley
Sunday, May 7, 2017, 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Monday, May 8, 2017, 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis

Gala Auction Winners of “Maestro Chef” Enjoy Gourmet Feasts

We all know what Jeffrey Thomas can do in a concert hall, but did you know that he’s equally skilled in the kitchen? One of the Live Auction items at last September’s “Sparkle” Gala was “Maestro Chef: Dinner for Four.” The item was so popular that the offer was extended to two top bidders. Customized menus were developed by our ABS Artistic Director especially for the guests, and the dinners were hosted by Elizabeth Wilson & Dennis Bonney in their exquisite home on the border of San Francisco’s Presidio. Both evenings featured delicious food, paired wines, and endlessly fascinating conversations.​

But if Jeffrey Thomas is the “Maestro” chef, ABS’s Artistic Administrator and principal contrabass player Steven Lehning is truly the “Master” chef. Just as his Herculean musical efforts in the ABS office are the backbone to every ABS musical program, so were his formidable culinary skills the core of the meal preparations.

Dennis Bonney - Elizabeth Wilson - Liz McCrum - Kaneez Munjee - Chris McCrum - Hugh Davies (not pictured: Steven Lehning, photographer)

Dennis Bonney – Elizabeth Wilson – Liz McCrum – Kaneez Munjee – Chris McCrum – Hugh Davies (not pictured: Steven Lehning, photographer)

For the first evening—which took place on the weekend of the Bay Area’s tremendous January downpours—the auction winners Hugh Davies & Kaneez Munjee of San Rafael invited ABS friends Chris McCrum & Liz Velarde to join them for a menu that began with champagne, delicate asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and dusted with lemon zest, and baby tomatoes filled with a shrimp cream with just a dash of horseradish. A chestnut soup with Madeira and truffle oil followed, paired with Amontillado sherry. The salad course was a doubleheader: shaved fennel, grapefruit, and mint, splashed with a light citrus dressing was served alongside a frisée salad with slivered kumquats tossed with vinaigrette. The wine pairing was a Rosé from Château de L’Aumerade in Côtes de Provence. For the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon took the center stage, served with baby potatoes roasted with rosemary & parmesan, and haricots verts with toasted almonds. The wine, a 2012 Reserve Cabernet, was from Stonetree Cellars, the private vineyards of Paul & Sandy Ogden. Finally, a spectacular Pavlova, prepared by our hostess, Elizabeth Wilson, capped off the unforgettable evening.

Irene & Bob Belknap - Ben & Meagan Becker - Steven Lehning - Elizabeth Wilson (not pictured: Jeffrey Thomas, photographer)

Irene & Bob Belknap – Ben & Meagan Becker – Steven Lehning – Elizabeth Wilson (not pictured: Jeffrey Thomas, photographer)

For the second offering of the Gala Auction item—on the weekend just before ABS’s “Bach Cantatas” performances—the winners were Ben & Meagan Becker of Mill Valley, who invited Robert & Irene Belknap as their guests. Following champagne and hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer of baked mushrooms filled with a blend of chèvre, olives, and herbs was followed by a “duet” of chilled soups: the first was a creamy avocado blend with hints of lemon and garlic, and the second was a fennel-based vichyssoise, both served with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. The main course was a beautifully presented salmon en croûte, served with multi-colored baby carrots and spring green beans sautéed with caramelized shallots, and baby potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary. Oak Knoll’s Napa Valley Chardonnay completed the course. And, luckily for all at the table, Elizabeth again prepared her now legendary Pavlova for dessert.​

ABS thanks Hugh, Kaneez, Ben, and Meagan for their support at our Gala. And we are very grateful to Elizabeth and Dennis for opening up their beautiful home for two evenings of ABS fun. Additional “Maestro Chef” dinners might be offered at our next—and fifteenth!—Annual Gala Auction, Concert, & Dinner on September 23, 2017, at the James Leary Flood Mansion in San Francisco, benefiting the American Bach Soloists Academy. For more information, visit the Sparkle Gala web site at americanbach.org/gala.

Sparkle 2017

ABS’s Steve Lehning asks Chorus Members ​about singing Bach Motets

Next week, ABS will present a program of Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus. I thought it would be interesting to ask ABS Chorus members to reflect on their experiences with these works, so I sent out a number of questions and here are some of the responses I received.

Nearly everyone had their first experience with these works while they were in college.

For me that was the case—although my experience was as a continuo instrumentalist, not a singer. Several singers remember that they were required to perform them from memory, and because of that these works have remained with them in a way others have not. Cheryl Cain (soprano) even goes so far as to say that, because of the impact they had on her when she was younger, they have become part of her musical psyche!

While many remember singing these works as students, when asked how often they have the opportunity to perform them as professionals a very different picture emerges. Most admit to having sung one or two only once every four or five years. Allison Zelles Lloyd (soprano) replied:

  • “How often? Not often enough.”

Elizabeth Eliassen (alto) wrote:

  • “It is seldom that one hears more than one on the program offered by a choir of volunteers; in such cases, only the most muscular among the motets are programmed, mostly as if to say, “See, we can do it!”

Perhaps this is because they are considered so technically demanding. Elizabeth goes on:

  • “But, lay these works end on end, and one is hard pressed to hear anything but the sheer variety and depth of ways in which Bach was able to convey hope, assurance, faith, release and joy, setting scripture, paraphrases of scripture and hymn texts. We will experience emotions from poignant to ecstatic, range from lipid meditation to playful musical filigree to loud and echoing testimony.”​

When asked about Bach’s vocal writing compared to other choral repertoire, the opinion is nearly unanimous. As much as it is rewarding to sing, the music is very demanding. Tom Hart (bass) feels that:

  • “As a performer, your mind, voice and body have to be aligned to enable you to sing Bach well. As far as the motets are concerned, I look at each one as a perfectly constructed masterpiece.”

Daniel Cromeenes (countertenor) agrees, saying:

  • “The craftsmanship of Bach leaves little room for error, so you have to be on top of your game in both vocal technique and mental alertness. Also, while some [other] repertoire practically sings itself, Bach’s works usually require some digging in and studying in order to discern all the facets and intricacies of his music.”

Allison Zelles Lloyd is more philosophical with her opinion:

  • “There is a precision and an elegant pacing in performing the motets. Bach composes the phrasing, the imitation, the counterpoint, harmonic progressions, rhythmic proportions, the dissonances and resolutions in such a mathematically balanced way, that I am left feeling after singing it in performance, that all is right in the world.  It is a deeply satisfying experience. Bach further performs a balancing act with the overall structure of the motets by contrasting the florid passages with the syllabic chorales.  … I sometimes imagine the choir as a congregation—as human—while singing the chorales, and during the florid passages, as the angelic host.”

So, what is it about these pieces that makes them so demanding? As Ed Betts (tenor) so concisely puts it:

  • “The motets are exceptionally transparent and exposed, both musically and emotionally. There’s no hiding when you perform them!”

When Tom Hart was asked if there are challenges, he replied:

  • “Absolutely—especially the florid passages which usually move from section to section. They are soloistic in difficulty and yet demand an additional level of precision since other sections are singing much the same thing at the same time. Additionally, an overlying arc of lyrical movement is necessary to prevent the melismas from sounding mechanical. That is the challenge for me—to be able to create crystal clear movement that possesses human feeling.”

Elisabeth Eliassen agrees with Tom’s assessment that the singing must not sound perfunctory, but takes it beyond simply sounding human.

  • “Many of these motets contain challenging leaps and lines, requiring the utmost control, even restraint; you can’t over do, but you also can’t be stiff and stifled. Singing this music involves a great deal of mental energy, but it is also very physical. The shifts in mood conveyed by the music and text require a complementary shift in spiritual attitude, as well as a willingness to be vocally and spiritually exposed—a willingness to be used as an earthly instrument to a heavenly purpose.”​​

But, ABS is all about Bach, so how does our specific mission color these performances? Again, the opinion of our musicians is undivided.

  • “It is such a gratifying part of my life to perform with the musicians of ABS and under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas. The level of professionalism, commitment to the music, the performance, to each other, is like no other. The supporting staff are also incredibly nice and dedicated to the organization. It’s been amazing to watch ABS grow and flourish in the Bay Area over the last 20+ years. The depth of interpretation that Jeffrey takes us to is a remarkable feature of ABS. Each note knows its role in the work by the time we are done rehearsing: structural, passing tone, harmony, rhythmic, ornament, emotional, etc. When the orchestra plays, it is clear that they are actually phrasing based on the text delivery which unifies the delivery of Bach’s musical intentions.” (Allison Zelles Lloyd).
  • “We spend more time pulling out the musicality and rhetoric of a piece rather than just being content with getting all the notes in at the right times with some generic dynamics.” (Daniel Cromeenes).
  • “Jeffrey’s sensibilities as a musician and vocalist as well as his attention to detail let him know what is possible. It’s so rewarding to work with someone who doesn’t settle for ‘good enough’.” (Mark Mueller, tenor).
  • His “… approach to each work is as unique as each piece. We singers know that years and years of thought, performance experience, and the hearing of many interpretations informs the way in which he chooses to nuance phrases. Attention to ensemble is so vital; we endeavor to prepare our ensemble to breathe as a single organism, if possible, so we can allow the music to escape from the boundaries of the page and flow from us with as much control, grace and artistry as we can muster.” (Elisabeth Eliassen).
With tremendous succinctness Ed Betts states:
  • “There’s nothing to compare with performing the Bach motets with Jeffrey and the singers of ABS! It’s in a class all by itself.”

So, to sum up; as we (the ABS musicians) look forward to performing the Bach motets, Amelia Triest (alto) says:

  • “I would never pass up a chance to do the motets— there are very few other pieces that demand such intricacy and collaboration among the singers.  The challenges are great, but so are the rewards.”
And I think Mark Mueller speaks for all of us when he says:
  • “They’re as dense as diamonds and just as precious. Can’t wait!”
​— Steven Lehning

Friday March 31 2017 8:00 pm St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday April 1 2017 8:00 pm First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley
Sunday April 2 2017 4:00 pm St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Monday April 3 2017 7:00 pm ​Davis Community Church, Davis

Congratulations to ABS Academy Alumnus ARYEH NUSSBAUM-COHEN on winning Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals 2017

Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen

We are thrilled to let you know that countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen, a participant in the 2015 ABS Academy, has been named a Winner in the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals held today in New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. The Grand Finals Concert was hosted by Renée Fleming, a 1988 National Council Winner, and featured Nicola Luisotti conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as each finalist performed two arias. 

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “vocal powerhouse” and for the “expressive depth” of his singing, and acclaimed for his “soaring, otherworldly voice” by the Houston Chronicle, Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen is quickly making his mark in the worlds of opera and early music. In his breakout 2016-2017 season, in addition to being named a Grand Finals Winner (as well as being named the Audience Choice Award Winner in the Eastern Region) in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he is the First Prize Winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irvin Scherzer Award as a Finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. His season also includes concerts with the Newberry Consort in Chicago and Operamission in New York City. In the summer of 2016, Aryeh participated in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, and in the summer of 2017, Aryeh will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist.

In the 2017-2018 season, he joins the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the Studio’s history, where he will sing Nireno in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Maid in Strauss’ Elektra. He will also join American Bach Soloists for our 20th annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Upon hearing the news of Aryeh’s Met Grand Finals win, ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas happily recounted working with Aryeh in August, 2015:

“His singing of the Agnus Dei in Bach’s Mass in B Minor was unforgettable, so heartfelt, beautiful, and moving. It was tremendously exciting to work with such a young artist with immeasurable talent. Our Academy voice faculty were equally thrilled, and I am overjoyed that our audiences will hear this phenomenal vocalist during our December 2017 performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and at the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis.”  

Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen

Aryeh made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck’s Demofonte with baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, under the baton of maestro Alan Curtis.

His opera roles also include Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Raphael (The Angel) in Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel, and Cefalo in Cavalli’s Gli Amori di Apollo e Dafne. Further, Aryeh has significant experience in the world of sacred music – highlights include serving as the alto soloist in a performance of the Bach Magnificat with the Leipzig Barockorchester in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany. During his senior year at Princeton University, Aryeh became the first singer to win the Princeton University Concerto Competition in a decade.

Currently residing in New York City, he received his BA in 2015 from Princeton University, where he majored in History (with a concentration in Intellectual and Cultural History) and received certificates in Vocal Performance and Judaic Studies. Upon graduating, he was awarded Princeton’s Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize for extraordinary achievement in the arts, granted each year to the student of greatest promise in the performance of classical music. He has spent extended time studying with ABS Academy faculty member Max van Egmond in Amsterdam, and he currently studies with Dr. Robert C. White, Jr. in New York. 

For more information, please visit Aryeh’s website: aryehnussbaumcohen.com

2017-2018 – American Bach Soloists Announce Their 29th Season

ABS’s 2017-2018 Season offers Musical Masterworks of the Baroque that have taken their places in the hearts of music lovers for all time.




Suzanne Karpov soprano (debut)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen countertenor (debut)
Zachary Wilder tenor
Hadleigh Adams baritone (debut)
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

American Bach Soloists, led by Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, present their annual performances of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah, in one of San Francisco’s most awe-inspiring, sacred spaces. ABS, Handel, and Grace Cathedral are perennially a winning combination and a highlight of the holiday season. Since 1998, ABS has presented Messiah in San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral to more than 40,000 attendees. A Bay Area holiday tradition now in its 20th consecutive year, ABS’s performances of Handel’s timeless work attract music lovers from around the world.

  • “What safeguards the tradition are performers as engaged and provocative as Jeffrey Thomas and the American Bach Soloists.” Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

ABS’s performances of Messiah have become an essential part of the musical year for many music lovers. Voted “Best of the Bay” by the readers of San Francisco Classical Voice, the Bay Area Reporter observed, “For those who treasure Messiah, Thomas’ version is revelatory.” Maestro Thomas will conduct the period-instrument specialists of ABS, the renowned American Bach Choir, and an internationally acclaimed quartet of brilliant vocal soloists.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m. – Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Thursday, December 14, 2017, 7:30 p.m. – Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Friday, December 15, 2017, 7:30 p.m. – Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Additional Performance:
Sunday, December 17, 2017, 4:00 p.m. – Mondavi Center, Davis

Suzanne Karpov - Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

Suzanne Karpov & Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

Zachary Wilder & Hadleigh AdamsZachary Wilder & Hadleigh Adams


St. John Passion

Aaron Sheehan, Evangelista tenor
William Sharp, Christus baritone
Hélène Brunet soprano
Robin Bier alto (debut)
Jesse Blumberg baritone
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

The great Passions of J. S. Bach remain unparalleled in their dramatic impact and universally experienced emotional effects. Bach took the genre to new worlds of expression, incorporating the Lutheran tradition of chorales with newer, Italianate operatic elements. The result is a powerful force of rhetoric that tells the Passion story reinforced by personalized illuminations of onlookers. This is music that transcends cultural, religious, and theatrical boundaries between performers and audience members, drawing in listeners as historical participants. Maestro Thomas, one of the Baroque music world’s most celebrated Bach specialists, brings his unique and insightful perspectives to the podium in definitive performances that are profoundly beautiful and moving.

  • “When I heard the American Bach Soloists perform the St. John Passion in Belvedere Friday, the unashamed earnestness of their presentation was a powerful example of how persuasive and even seductive this music can be when under the care of great performers.”      San Francisco Classical Voice

Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, February 25, 2018, 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Monday, February 26, 2018, 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis

Aaron Sheehan & William SharpAaron Sheehan & William Sharp

Helene Brunet & Robin BierHélène Brunet & Robin Bier

Jesse Blumberg & Jeffrey ThomasJesse Blumberg & Jeffrey Thomas

APRIL 2018

Vespro della Beata Vergine (“Vespers of 1610”)
Magnificat a 6 voci

Nils Brown tenor
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Like the most treasured works of art and spectacular architectural wonders, a handful of musical masterworks of the Baroque have taken their places in the hearts of music lovers for all time.  Our 29th subscription season continues with Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (also known as the “Vespers of 1610”), a monumental work that displays its composer’s brilliant assimilation of styles—old and new, sacred and secular—and his masterful command of a wide palette of musical structures including psalm settings, sacred concertos, hymns, motets, and sonatas, all bound together by Gregorian chant. Last performed by ABS in 2010, audiences can expect the American Bach Soloists and the American Bach Choir to deliver an extraordinary performance of this splendid music from the Venetian school.

  • “It was a stunning performance … Mr. Thomas’ deep knowledge of the work gave him the ability to draw both subtleties and the rich sonorities to bring out the sheer majesty of Monteverdi … The large audience was transfixed.”      Classical Sonoma

Friday, April 6, 2018, 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, April 7, 2018, 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, April 8, 2018, 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Monday, April 9, 2018, 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis

Nils Brown & American Bach ChoirNils Brown & American Bach Choir

MAY 2018

Orchestral Overtures & Suites

Sandra Miller flute
Debra Nagy & Stephen Bard oboes
Dominic Teresi bassoon
John Thiessen trumpet
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

The musical forms of dance were the most essential and permeating components of music from the Baroque era. Those clearly defined elements determined tempos, moods or affects, and the structural architectures of the vast majority of Baroque musical works, both with texts and purely instrumental. Historians have noted that Bach’s music is intensely infused with the spirit of dance, whether expressing joy, felicity, sorrow, or devotion, Bach’s suites not only celebrate the dance, but also the phenomenal technical abilities of his musicians. All four Orchestral Suites will be presented in these concerts, full of exuberant sonority, captivating melody, and displays of virtuosity from ABS’s famous roster of “the best American specialists in early music” (The Washington Post).

  • “The dotted rhythms of the Ouverture came off with a jaunty elegance … sparkled with variety as it charmed and beguiled from beginning to end.”     San Francisco Classical Voice

Friday, May 11, 2018, 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, May 12, 2018, 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, May 13, 2018, 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Monday, May 14, 2018, 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis

Sandra Miller & Debra NagySandra Miller & Debra Nagy

Dominic Teresi & John ThiessenDominic Teresi & John Thiessen

American Bach Soloists 2017-2018 Season



Single tickets $20–$125
Subscribers receive a 15% discount.

For more information, visit americanbach.org or call 415-621-7900.

2017 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy Tickets Now on Sale

Theme for 8th Annual Festival is

August 4-13 in Two Superb San Francisco Venues 

Tickets for the 8th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival—are now on sale. Titled “ENGLISH MAJESTY,” the 2017 Festival will feature concerts, lectures, and colloquia that extol the masterful achievements of London’s most celebrated Baroque composers. Along with a commemoration of the famous performance of Handel’s Water Music on the Thames 300 years ago in 1717, Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the ABS Festival Orchestra in two delightful performances of Purcell’s King Arthur and two performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Additionally, the “period style all-stars” (San Francisco Examiner) of ABS will offer “Bach & Sons,” a program that honors J.S. Bach and his most illustrious composer offspring, and the Academy Faculty, a distinguished roster of performers, will offer “Orpheus in Britannia” featuring works by some of the greatest composers of the English Baroque.

FRIDAY AUGUST 4 8:00 p.m.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the legendary performance of George Frideric Handel’s world famous Water Music that was performed for King George I during an evening on the River Thames. Wanting to impress his close aristocratic friends and all of London at the same time, the King and his party boarded a royal barge at Whitehall Palace destined for Chelsea, where dinner would be served. According to the first British newspaper (The Daily Courant), “the whole River in a manner was covered” with boats and barges of onlookers and those seeking an extraordinary (and free!) outdoor concert. The music was an instant hit and is now among the most recognizable music of the Baroque era. Paired with Handel’s music for a river is Telemann’s music about a river, in this case the Elbe as it flows through the city of Hamburg. “Hamburger Ebb’ und Fluth” (“Hamburg’s Ebb and Flood”) paints nautical scenes of mythological deities—Thetis, Neptune, Naiads, Triton, Aeolus, and Zephir—culminating with a joyful movement about sailors (“Die lustigen Boots Leute” or “The merry Boat People”).

George Frideric Handel: Water Music Suites in F Major & G Major
Georg Philipp Telemann: Hamburger Ebb’ und Fluth (also known as “Water Music”)
American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church • 1111 O’Farrell Street • San Francisco


The ABS Summer Festival runs concurrently with the ABS Academy, a prestigious training program that features one of the most distinguished faculty of Early Music performers to be found anywhere. Each musician, highly celebrated worldwide, is a renowned artist, expert in the performance traditions of Baroque Music. This program, designed specifically to spotlight their gifts as powerful and dramatic performers, takes its name from the legendary ancient Greek hero who was endowed with superhuman musical skills that could move all living things, charm wild beasts, and even coax rocks and trees into movement. Selections by the greatest composers of the English Baroque—including Purcell, Jenkins, and Handel, among others—will present the unique artistry of the Academy Faculty in an enthralling showcase.

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin & viola • Max van Egmond, baritone
Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Steven Lehning, violone & contrabass • Judith Malafronte, contralto
Robert Mealy, violin & viola • Sandra Miller, flute
Debra Nagy, oboe & recorder • William Sharp, baritone
William Skeen, violoncello & viola da gamba
Kenneth Slowik, violoncello & viola da gamba • Dominic Teresi, bassoon
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church • 1111 O’Farrell Street • San Francisco

SUNDAY AUGUST 6 7:00 p.m.
SUNDAY AUGUST 13 2:00 p.m.

Jeffrey Thomas leads the ABS Festival Orchestra and American Bach Choir in performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor on each Festival Sunday. A beloved tradition, the annual performances of this pinnacle work of the repertory feature instrumental and vocal soloists from the ABS Academy.

ABS Academy Festival Orchestra • American Bach Choir
with soloists from the ABS Academy
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church • 1111 O’Farrell Street • San Francisco (August 6)
San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 50 Oak Street • San Francisco (August 13)

THURSDAY AUGUST 10 8:00 p.m.
FRIDAY AUGUST 11 8:00 p.m.

Henry Purcell’s King Arthur, considered a “semi-opera”—a work that includes arias and choruses, spoken dialogue, and dance music—is a setting of a libretto by the great English poet, literary critic, translator, and playright John Dryden (1631-1700), named England’s first Poet Laureate in 1668. The plot revolves around episodes in the battles between King Arthur’s Britons and the Saxons, centering primarily on Arthur’s efforts to recover Princess Emmeline, his fiancée who had been captured by his arch-enemy, the Saxon King Oswald. The music is a colorful anthology of songs, dances, and choruses, certainly ranking at the top of all theatrical music from the period of Restoration England, and features some of Purcell’s most beautiful, lyrical, and recognizable works including the serenely beautiful aria, “Fairest Isle.”

ABS Academy Festival Orchestra with soloists from the ABS Academy
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 50 Oak Street • San Francisco

SATURDAY AUGUST 12 8:00 p.m.

The fame of Johann Sebastian Bach—the keystone of a multi-generational musical dynasty—gave permanence to the careers and legacies of his forebears and sons. This program features some of Bach’s most profound music including orchestral transcriptions of selections from his most important musical creations including The Musical Offering, Clavier Übung III, and the monumental Passacaglia in C Minor. Then, following performances of Sinfonias from some of Bach’s best cantatas, the virtuosi of American Bach Soloists will then turn their attentions to Bach’s most successful progeny. Carl Philipp Emanuel will be represented by a tour-de-force concerto for flauto traverso; Wilhelm Friedemann’s Sinfonia in F features the strings of the ABS orchestra; and a rarely performed Trio for Strings by Johann Christian (known as “the English Bach”) will illuminate the importance of Bach’s offspring.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Transcriptions
    Ricercar a 6 (from “The Musical Offering”)
    Passacaglia in C Minor
    “Wir gläuben all an einen Gott” (from Clavier Übung III)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sinfonias from Cantatas
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach:  Sinfonia in F Major for Strings
Johann Christian Bach: Trio for Strings in D Major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Concerto in A Major for Flute

Sandra Miller, flauto traverso
American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 50 Oak Street • San Francisco

The participants of the 2017 ABS Academy will also be featured on August 7 & 8 in a free, three-part Academy-in-Action “Baroque Marathon” featuring favorite works and lesser known gems from the Baroque. Engaging with the theme of the Festival, the sessions of the “Baroque Marathon” will feature works by English composers along with compositions by J.S. Bach and others.

A host of free lectures, master classes, and a public colloquium complement the evening concerts, allowing for an immersive experience of music, learning, and inspiration that have made the ABS Festival & Academy a highlight of the Bay Area’s summer musical calendar in recent years.


Single tickets $30–$95
Purchasers of all 5 Festival productions receive a 15% subscribers discount.
For more information, visit sfbachfestival.org or americanbach.org call 415-621-7900.


August 4–13, 2017
Concerts will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street) and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street) in San Francisco

All free events will be held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street)

Friday August 4 2017 – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SF
5:00 p.m. Opening Night Gala Dinner at Dobbs Ferry of San Francisco
8:00 p.m. All Aboard! Water Music by Handel & Telemann

Saturday August 5 2017 – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SF
2:00 p.m. Public Colloquium (free)
  • Music’s “Fairest Isle” – Voices, Viols, & Visitors
8:00 p.m Orpheus in Britannia

Sunday August 6 2017 – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SF
7:00 p.m. Bach: Mass in B Minor

Monday August 7 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Baroque Marathon – Academy-in-Action Concert I
8:00 p.m. Baroque Marathon – Academy-in-Action Concert II

Tuesday August 8 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Master Class – Harpsichord (free)
5:00 p.m. Lecture Series (free)
 • Winds on the Water: Grand Music for the Great Outdoors – Debra Nagy
8:00 p.m. Baroque Marathon – Academy-in-Action Concert III

Wednesday August 9 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Master Class – Violin & Viola (free)
5:00 p.m. Lecture Series (free)
  • Bach’s Mass in B Minor: A Look from the Inside – Jeffrey Thomas

Thursday August 10 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Master Class – Violoncello, Viola da gamba, Violone, & Contrabass (free)
5:00 p.m. Lecture Series (free)
  • “O come let us howl”: English Theater Music in the 17th Century – Judith Malafronte
8:00 p.m. Henry Purcell: King Arthur

Friday August 11 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Master Class – Winds & Brass (free)
5:00 p.m. Lecture Series (free)
  • King Arthur and Purcell’s French and Italian Influences – Robert Mealy
8:00 p.m. Henry Purcell: King Arthur

Saturday August 12 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
3:00 p.m. Master Class – Voice (free)
5:00 p.m. Lecture Series (free)
 • Bach & Sons: A Musical Dynasty – Kenneth Slowik
8:00 p.m. Bach & Sons: Sinfonias, Concertos, and Transcriptions

Sunday August 13 2017 – San Francisco Conservatory of Music
2:00 p.m. Bach: Mass in B Minor

Steven Lehning Will Give Free ABS Master Class On Monday March 13th

The second in the 2017 series of American Bach Soloists Free Master Classes will take place next Monday on March 13th at 7:30 p.m. in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street at Van Ness.

We asked Steven Lehning about his experiences in master classes with talented young artists. Here’s what he told us:

What type of master class is this, and what music will you focus on?

  • Students at the conservatory will be presenting arias from their March 11th performance of Handel’s Opera, Atalanta. I will be suggesting ideas about how to approach continuo playing for this music, with particular attention to the non-keyboard players: the cellos and double basses. There is a tremendous amount of historic material available to those who realize the figured basses (keyboards and lutes for example), but surprisingly little directed specifically to the string players who also make up the continuo ensemble.

What is your approach to this music?

  • Baroque music is all about rhetoric. The classical rhetorical figures are easily discernible in the shapes of the composers’ melodies. Continuo playing clearly needs to support this, but how? I like to suggest that the bass players need to think about these things. For example: They must know and understand the texts and how they are set against the harmony and rhythm of the bass lines. If the music is based on a dance form, how (as bass line players) should we help define those specific characteristics? I ask them to consider music as a language and, as such, I would suggest to players that the continuo lines supply the grammatical structure without which the musical meaning is at its best vague and at its worst incomprehensible.

How has your approach changed over the years?

  • Like just about everything in life, the more you live or work with something, the more there is to learn. When I first started thinking about my role as a bass player in Baroque music, it seemed to be enough to understand that my job was to support the music as if I were a solid foundation, a frame over which the “more interesting” parts could show their stuff. But the bass parts themselves were so interesting! . . . that alone couldn’t be all there was. I have been very lucky to have worked from the beginning with very talented singers. Instinctively, I learned the importance of understanding the text and that my playing could support or confuse it. I also was lucky early on to perform many Bach cantatas. Those bass lines so express the harmonic rhythm, and I realized that making that understandable, too, was extremely important. Over the years, I have tried more and more in my playing to synthesize all aspects of Baroque rhetoric as it is manifested in the music. It is something that continually is teaching me—if I ever feel I’m no longer learning something, that will be the time to quit.

What do you hope the participants will take away?

  • It is always my goal in teaching and coaching to help students look to broader horizons in their performance practices. For bass players, that means understanding the tremendous impact on what and how they play has on those they accompany. It isn’t enough to play your part as it stands. There is a constant need look to the rhetoric of the entire work and to learn where and how their individual parts fit in to the whole. The impact of their playing greatly enriches the performance experience not only for themselves and their musical colleagues, but for the audiences they play for as well. I am convinced that in Baroque music, everything the composer wants to express is on the page, and hopefully I will be able to generate enough contagious enthusiasm in these young players that they leave the master class excited and with a new drive to look for those things in this great music and to integrate them in their performances. Someone once said of Historically Informed Performance Practice that a goal couldn’t be to play music from earlier periods the way that they did, but rather to play in such a way that if they were to hear it, they would at least recognize it!

What do you hope the audience will take away?

  • Those who come to master classes as audience members do so for many reasons. Some of them are musicians themselves (students, professionals, and amateurs), some are friends and supporters of the participants, and some are there to support the educational institutions that present these classes. All, however, are curious and want to take away something that they didn’t know, or they are interested in learning new ways to think about this music. Just as I hope my enthusiasm for this music is contagious for the participants, so also do I hope this will be true for the audiences. I wrote above about music being a language. Hearing about some details players might think about when they work through the pieces they perform hopefully will inspire audience members to listen in a novel way and, with luck, deepen their own experience as listeners and supporters of the arts.

Free Admission
MONDAY MARCH 13th 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
50 Oak Street at Van Ness

Works from
Handel’s Atalanta


Steven Lehning (violone & contrabass) was attending Pacific Lutheran University as an undergraduate when he stumbled upon a used book store that had a nearly complete collection of the Bach-Gesellschaft edition of Bach Cantatas in mini-score; each for only a nickel! Finding these while taking a class in Lutheran theology set him on a trajectory that prepared him to eventually become one of the founding members of the American Bach Soloists.

A remarkable and versatile musician who is equally at home with violas da gamba, violones, contrabass, and historical keyboards, he has worked with many of the luminaries of the early music world including Jeffrey Thomas, John Butt, Andrew Parrott, and Ton Koopman. He has performed at the acclaimed Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, as well as the Early Music Festivals in Boston and Berkeley.

After finishing his undergraduate degree and while waiting to see what performances might come his way, he worked as an apprentice learning the art of French bread and pastry. Always curious about the entirety of the world in which the music he plays came from, he dove into many aspects of early music. In addition to performing with ABS, he is the Artistic Administrator, serves as librarian, and tunes harpsichords and organs for rehearsals and performances. On the scholarship side, he has pursued graduate studies in musicology at the University of California (Davis). Steve has recorded on the American Bach Soloists, Delos, EMI, Harmonia Mundi, and Koch Labels.


ABS Presents Bach’s Motets for Double-Chorus

The American Bach Soloists’ 2017 season continues with Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus, a program highlighting the superb artistry of the American Bach Choir. ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas conducts performances in the Bay Area and Davis from March 31 through April 3, 2017.

Bach’s surviving motets are mesmerizing in their complexity and virtuosity, and they rival the splendor of his greatest cantatas and liturgical works. The motets for double chorus, with their increased number of parts, allow Bach to showcase his unparalleled genius in counterpoint and beguiling polyphonic textures. Many of these works were written for special, non-liturgical occasions. Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt, which draws its text from Psalm 100, is noteworthy in that it was a collaboration between Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. The Psalms are the source for Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied as well, a virtuosic work which juxtaposes an endless array of dazzling melismas with passages of serene beauty.  Several other works round out the program, including the brief yet powerful Komm, Jesu, komm, and the joyous and celebratory Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf and Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir.

The American Bach Choir has been lauded for their exquisite singing and musicality for more than two decades, and Maestro Jeffrey Thomas is proud to spotlight their abilities for Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus. The members of the American Bach Choir are some of the most highly regarded choral singers in the Bay Area, and they will undoubtedly shine in this challenging and provocative repertoire.

Classical Sonoma praised their “stunning choral singing … the Chorus’s articulation and intonation were unequalled.”

San Francisco Classical Voice wrote that a performance was “beautifully phrased and superbly sung, with the ABS Choir at its usual best.”

In the days following the concert set, this program will be professionally recorded for CD and digital download. This recording, which will be the 21st in ABS’s formidable discography, is expected to be released in June 2017.

ABS is one of the cornerstones of the Bay Area’s vibrant and renowned Early Music community. Hailed by The Washington Post as “the best American specialists in early music … a flawless ensemble … a level of musical finesse one rarely encounters,” ABS welcomes all audiences for a magical evening of Baroque music from the composer who inspired its founding.

American Bach Soloists present Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus

BACH: Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied
BACH: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf
BACH: Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir
BACH: Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt
BACH: Komm, Jesu, komm
and others

American Bach Soloists
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Friday March 31 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE

Saturday April 1 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, 2407 Dana Street, BERKELEY

Sunday April 2 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, SAN FRANCISCO

Monday April 3 2017 7:00 pm
​Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS

Single Tickets: $33-$85
Tickets for ABS Subscribers: $28-$72

Discounted tickets available for students (21 and under with Valid ID). Please call the ABS Office, (415) 621-7900.

“Into the Woods” for a Celebration of Music, Wine, and Food

On Sunday, January 29, a group of ABS enthusiasts gathered at the St. Francis Wood home of Nancy Quinn & Tom Driscoll for “Into the Woods,” our annual celebration of music, wine, and food.

Mindy Ella Chu sang works by Purcell and Lawes

The afternoon began with a special concert previewing the 2017 Festival & Academy, “English Majesty.” Mezzo-soprano Mindy Ella Chu, known to ABS audiences for her dazzling performance in last summer’s North American premiere of Handel’s Parnasso in festa, joined a chamber group of ABS musicians in selections from Handel’s Water Music, several English songs, and Johann Christian Bach’s Sonata in D. This intimate concert took place in the grand, richly decorated living room of Tom & Nancy’s San Francisco home, offering sweeping views of the city and a truly memorable concert experience.

An extraordinary flight of wines from Bordeaux

The celebration then migrated to Tom & Nancy’s sensational wine cellar. Tom, a notable connoisseur, selected a flight of six French wines from his private collection for the group to enjoy, including a velvety 1998 Bordeaux and, the star of the show, a beautifully golden 1986 Sauternes. All six wines were paired with small bites from Delicious! Catering, the company of long-time ABS supporter Jan Goldberg. The food and wine served as a splendid backdrop to lively conversation among our supporters, musicians, and staff, once again making “Into the Woods” a resounding highlight of our year.

Master wine connoisseur, Tom Driscoll, readies a bottle of an exquisite 1986 Sauternes

Tickets to “Into the Woods” are available every year at our annual fundraising gala in the fall. This year’s gala, “Sparkle 2017,” will be held at San Francisco’s James Leary Flood Mansion on Saturday, September 23, 2017. For tickets and more information, please visit americanbach.org/gala.

Baroque Violinist Tekla Cunningham Will Give Free ABS Master Class On Monday February 6th

The first in the 2017 series of American Bach Soloists Free Master Classes will take place next Monday on February 6th at 7:30 p.m. in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street at Van Ness.

We asked Tekla Cunningham about her experiences in master classes with talented young artists. Here’s what she told us: 

Tekla CunninghamWhat is it about the Master Class environment that you find particularly enjoyable and satisfying? 

  • It is incredibly interesting and enjoyable to meet young students who share my passion for Early Music and the baroque violin. While a long term mentor/student relationship is a very important, it can be a special moment to work with a student for a brief time on just a few specific items. Sometimes it is possible in this kind of “snapshot” situation to see very different things than one would see when working with a student over the course of months or years. I have many happy—and nerve wracking—memories of participating in master classes, and so I have a lot of empathy for students who are asked to absorb some new musical or technical idea in a very short time. It is a rewarding challenge for students and teachers alike! 

The Mentor/Student relationship can be extremely rewarding and productive. What do you try to bring to the experience of the student in a Master Class?

  • One of the most rewarding aspects of the mentor/student relationship is the privilege of watching students develop their own artistic voice over time. In a master class setting, both student and teacher have just a short amount of time to get to know each other. I hope to leave each student with just a few key points to chew on over time. 

What about the “third” person in the equation: the audience? How do you include them in your Master Class teaching?

  • A master class is very different from a one-on-one private lesson. In a master claBaroque Violinist Tekla Cunningham Will Give Free ABS Master Class On Monday February 6th

    ss with a more general audience, it is most engaging to focus on musical ideas. Helping the student to understand how to deliver their musical ideas through their performance successfully to an audience is best practiced in front of an audience! Performing in front of an audience gives a certain focus and energy to a musical performance, and can also expose any musical ideas or technical challenges that aren’t quite working yet.  So the audience plays in important role in this way, in forcing a kind of clarity on performance.

Free Admission

MONDAY FEBRUARY 6th 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
50 Oak Street at Van Ness

Works by Bach performed by
Sarah Bleile violin
Elizabeth Boardman viola
Emily Nardo violin
Eugenio Solinas cello


Tekla Cunningham, baroque violin, viola, and viola d’amore, enjoys a varied and active musical life. At home in Seattle, she is concertmaster of Stephen Stubbs’ Pacific MusicWorks, principal second violin with Seattle Baroque Orchestra & Soloists, and plays regularly as concertmaster and principal player with the American Bach Soloists in California. She directs the Whidbey Island Music Festival, a summer concert series presenting vibrant period-instrument performances of repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Beethoven.

She has appeared as concertmaster/leader or soloist with the American Bach Soloists, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and Musica Angelica (Los Angeles). She has also played with Apollo’s Fire, Los Angeles Opera, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and at the Carmel Bach Festival, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Savannah Music Festival, and the Bloomington Early Music Festival. She has worked with many leading directors including Rinaldo Alessandrini, Giovanni Antonini, Harry Bicket, Paul Goodwin, Martin Haselböck, Monica Huggett, Nic McGegan, Rachel Podger, Jordi Savall, Stephen Stubbs, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Wallfisch, and Bruno Weil.

An avid chamber musician, Tekla enjoys exploring the string quartet repertoire of the 18th and early 19th century with the period-instrument Novello Quartet, whose abiding interest is the music of Haydn. She is also a member of La Monica, an ensemble dedicated to music of the 17th century, whose concerts have been reviewed as “sizzling”, and praised for their “irrepressible energy and pitch-perfect timing”. With Jillon Dupree, harpsichord, and Vicki Boeckman, recorders, she plays in Ensemble Electra, known for its inventive programs and energetic performances.

She can be heard on recordings with the American Bach Soloists, Apollo’s Fire, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Tafelmusik, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, San Francisco Bach Choir, various movie soundtracks including Disney’s Casanova, La Monica’s recent release The Amorous Lyre, a recording of repertoire of Merula and his contemporaries and the Novello Quartet’s recording of Haydn’s Op. 50 string quartets. This summer she recorded Mozart’s Flute Quartets with Janet See, Laurie Wells, and Tanya Tomkins.

Tekla received her musical training at Johns Hopkins University and Peabody Conservatory (where she studied History and German Literature in addition to violin), Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she completed a Master’s degree with Ian Swenson. She teaches Suzuki violin in both German and English and is on the Early Music faculty of Cornish College for the Arts.


Academy Alumnus STEVEN BRENNFLECK Makes His ABS Debut in “A WEEKEND IN PARIS” February 10-13

Our next concert set features the ABS debut of Steven Brennfleck, a much sought after tenor and haute-contre. An alumnus of the 2015 ABS Academy, Steven has performed at many of the country’s premier venues, including Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood. ABS caught up with Steven to hear some of his thoughts about his time at the Academy and tonight’s program.

How did your participation in the ABS Academy help to shape your career?

My experience as a member of the ABS Academy was motivating and richly rewarding. As musicians, the most important parts of our instrument we train are our ears! The Academy, through its intensive, immersive approach, helped me learn more of what to listen and strive for when approaching Baroque repertoire. Another great advantage, particularly for singers, is that we were in a situation where we were learning alongside our instrumental colleagues, which helped us understand the all-important skill of collaboration.

What are you most looking forward to about making your debut with ABS as a featured soloist?

Aside from being back in beautiful San Francisco, I look forward to working with Jeffrey and the magnificent orchestra he puts together. There can often be a gulf of experience between singers and instrumentalists, but Jeffrey, a singer himself, always creates such a sense of collaboration and community to the extent that one feels a sense of ensemble in the truest sense.

Do you have an affinity for Baroque music, or the French Baroque in particular? 

I do and I always have. I started off as a pianist and organist and I had very wise teachers who emphasized the importance of playing Bach—lots of it! The articulation, attention to detail, and clarity that is necessary to perform Bach well instilled a great deal of musical discipline into my development. My first real venture into the world of French Baroque was at the ABS Academy in 2015 in Marais’ Sémélé, and I am happy to have the opportunity to dive in again with these two stellar pieces. 

Steven Brennfleck has been hailed by The New York Times as “superb, dramatically astute … standout”

In these upcoming concerts, you have been cast in haute-contre roles, characterized by their demandingly high tessitura and range.  Does your vocal preparation for an haute-contre part differ at all from that of a more traditional tenor part? 

Not too significantly. The music is beautiful and transportive, but it’s not exactly difficult to learn. The challenge of course is the high range of the haute-contre repertoire which generally centers at or above the staff. The amount of vocal weight with which I approach the music has to be just right to not sound colorless or detached, but still sound easy and not tax the voice too much.

Are there any specific challenges in your pieces that the audience might be interested to hear about? Or perhaps anything they should keep an ear out for?

Always the text painting! Listen for how the composers set specific words, particularly with melismas, to emphasize or bring out certain characteristics of their meaning. The interplay between the voice and solo instruments is always fascinating as well.


Friday February 10 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE

Saturday February 11 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, 2407 Dana Street, BERKELEY
​(note new venue for the 2017 Season)

Sunday February 12 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, SAN FRANCISCO

Monday February 13 2017 7:00 pm
​Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS


ABS Berkeley Concerts Moved Across the Street to First Presbyterian Church for 2017

As you may know, our Berkeley home, First Congregational Church, suffered extensive fire damage last fall and the groups who use the facility to perform concerts have been looking for temporary homes for the 2017 season. Many people, including the staff of First Congregational, had hoped to be back in the facilities by now, but that is not the case. So, for the 2017 winter and spring season, American Bach Soloists have moved their performances across the street to First Presbyterian Church (2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA). We have every hope that we will return to First Congregational in 2018!

We are grateful to First Presbyterian Church for opening their doors to us; we are especially supportive of the congregation and staff of First Congregational Church during this difficult period, and we are grateful to you for your understanding in this endeavor.

First Presbyterian Church Berkeley, across the street from First Congregational Church

Map of First Presbyterian Church relative to First Congregational Church


We are beginning the process of moving your seats into the new location and you will receive replacement tickets in the mail very soon. Upon receipt of these tickets, please destroy your current set as they will no longer be valid. If you have questions about this, please feel free to contact the ABS office (415-621-7900).


If you don’t yet have seats for our Berkeley concerts, you may visit americanbach.org/tickets and reserve your seats in First Presbyterian Church now. Seats are available for our performances in Belvedere, Davis, and San Francisco, as well.


Subscriptions for our Winter and Spring 2017 concerts in the new venue are on sale now, and will be available online or by phone until February 9th, 2017. Visit americanbach.org/subscribe for more information and to obtain subscription savings and benefits.


Work was begun on repairing the damage to the sanctuary in October, 2016. Although there are many steps to safely and carefully restore the building, latest estimates by the staff at First Congregational (published on fccb.org) point to June 2017 as the target date for their congregation to return.

First Congregational Church Berkeley on Friday September 30 2016

Scaffolding to secure the sanctuary ceiling


Please contact the ABS office with any questions you may have.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new venue for 2017!


The Florence Gould Foundation Awards $20,000 Grant To ABS

Florence Gould on board SS Normandie circa 1935

American Bach Soloists has been awarded a grant of $20,000 from The Florence Gould Foundation in support of our February 2017 concert set, “A Weekend in Paris.” The Florence Gould Foundation, which was founded in 1957 by Florence Gould, daughter-in-law of the railway magnate Jay Gould, aims to support French-American relations, especially via the arts.

In response to the generous gift, ABS Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas said, “We are so humbled to receive the support of such a prestigious foundation. It’s an honor to have the Foundation’s confidence in ABS, especially in what will be an unforgettable night of French Baroque music.”

In February, “A Weekend in Paris” will offer a tour to the Opéra, the Ballet, and the Chapelle through the elegant music of masters of the French Baroque. When Jean-Baptiste Lully’s monopoly on music in France ended at the end of the 17th century, an explosion of musical creativity erupted in Paris from a new generation of composers including Marais, Rebel, Corrette, Mondonville, and the great master of the age, Jean-Philippe Rameau. Featuring a selection of enchanting works for the Opéra, Ballet, and Chapelle, Thomas and ABS explore the vibrant Parisian spirit of invention, including its incorporation of new, cosmopolitan influences from abroad. The Italian style, especially, is evident in these works, as evidenced by Corrette’s Laudate Dominum, which includes an interpolation of Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons arranged for choir, vocal soloists, and orchestra.

Read more about the concerts.

A Message from our Executive Director

Don Scott CarpenterMerry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, and Happy New Year! Whether you celebrate some, all, or none of these, we at American Bach Soloists want you to know that we celebrate you this holiday season and beyond. That’s because over the last twelve months, your support has enabled us to share our music through our annual subscription concert season, the ABS Festival & Academy, our annual gala, our just completed performances of Messiah, and a multitude of other ways.

2016 saw ABS and Jeffrey Thomas at their finest. Our subscription concerts included “Bach Favorites” which featured ABS Academy alumna and 2016 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient Tatiana Chulochnikova; performances of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast; and a collection of works celebrating Easter and Ascension by Bach, Buxtehude, and Kuhnau. We celebrated Bach’s 331st birthday with an organ recital at St. Mark’s Church in San Francisco by ABS co-founder Jonathan Dimmock. The seventh annual ABS Festival & Academy held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with additional performances at St. Mark’s, was based around the theme, “An Italian Journey” and featured music by Scarlatti, Tartini, Torelli, and Vivaldi, and included our annual performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor and the North American premiere of Handel’s Parnasso in festa. Our fall fundraising gala, Sparkle 2016, was held at the James Leary Flood Mansion in San Francisco and was a huge success, not to mention a lot of fun. And in December, we presented Handel’s Messiah for the 18th consecutive year in Grace Cathedral.

We can’t do any of this without you!

As we begin a new calendar year, we need your financial support to ensure that we keep this strong musical legacy alive.

Your gift makes a difference! You experience the music, but we see the costs of bringing these incredible musicians to San Francisco, the cost of scores, the cost of marketing, and all things that it takes to ensure wonderful performances season after season.

Customize Your Giving

You asked, and we heard you. With this e-mail, you can now make a one-time gift, or make weekly and/or monthly gifts, which will automatically be deducted from your bank account or charged to your credit card. We hope that this will make the donation process simpler and will ensure you that your support is ongoing. Will you help?

Customize Your Giving

Please join all of us in supporting our musicians, Maestro Jeffrey Thomas, and all of American Bach Soloists by sending your gift today.

Wishing you all the best,

Don Scott Carpenter
Executive Director

Interview with Jeffrey Thomas about performing Messiah

We posed a few questions to ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas about the joys and challenges of his annual preparations and performances of Handel’s Messiah. Here are a few of his very interesting illuminations:

1. Given the opportunity to perform this annually, what do you look forward to each year?

In most cases, a conductor and musicians have only occasional opportunities to prepare and perform some of the greatest works of musical art. But in the case of an annual tradition—whether that be yearly presentations of Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor at our Summer Festivals, or annual holiday concerts of Handel’s Messiah—my colleagues and I know that the work we have done previously becomes the foundation for the next year’s new efforts to polish to an even brighter shine that handful of masterpieces that so many thousands, and millions worldwide, want to hear at least once a year. The fact that listeners, our audience members, wait in such eager anticipation of hearing this timeless music once again is an inspiration to us as performers to exceed their expectations year after year. And I have heard many say that this year especially their need to experience the transformative music of Messiah is at an all-time high.

2. What’s it like to perform this work in Grace Cathedral as opposed to a concert hall?

We are very fortunate to perform in some fantastic concert halls. Last night, for example, we performed Messiah in one of the greatest in the country, Jackson Hall in the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis. And next weekend we’ll be performing in another jewel among California concert halls, the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park. Although Grace Cathedral was certainly not built to be a concert hall, it offers a very special dimension to ABS’s Messiah presentations. It is, simply put, a sacred and spiritual space, one that offers palpable serenity and awe-inspiring magnificence. Handel composed Messiah to be performed as a benefit for prisoners, a hospital, and an infirmary. And in later years, still under his direction, it was offered to benefit London’s largest orphanage. A space like Grace Cathedral reminds us of our interaction with community, and perhaps in that way we can connect to the original purpose of Handel’s work.

3. Why has Messiah stood the test of time?

It’s not easy to come up with the explanation, although we know that there are a handful of masterpieces that have survived splendidly over the centuries. In fact, some have truly thrived as much due to their transformations to other styles as to their original forms. Think about how often we hear the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the opening of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus in TV commercials. Those snippets are quoted because the music has gained a status of timelessness. So, back to the question: What has created that timelessness? Surely it has to do with the fact that those works have been performed without a hiatus since their premieres. What caused that? I believe it can be traced to the context of the work within its moment of creation. London needed a work such as Messiah to work out its societal difficulties, as a means to focus attention on benevolence and charity. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony came at a time when the structure and formats of music itself needed a new and perhaps brave trajectory. Beethoven propelled the philosophy of music in a new direction by composing three absolutely perfect movements—pristine and flawless in conception and realization—that honored the traditions of what had come before, then thrust the entirety of that toward a new cause represented by the fourth movement “Ode to Joy” finale. It is the synergy of a work perfectly fitting into the needs of its own time that ensures its immediate success and eventual recognition as a timeless historical achievement. And that is exactly the genesis of Messiah.

4. How has your performance of Messiah as a tenor soloist guided your conducting of the work and how has it changed over the years?

Any of the best singers understand that when a composer is guided by text the resulting music is a direct expression of that composer’s perception of the meaning of that text. This is how rhetoric fits in. The composer decides what words will be repeated, when a repetition takes place, why a word deserves a long note, or a run of fast notes (a melisma), and even why one pitch should be higher or lower according to the words at that point within the piece. With 99% certainty, we can decode the notes to understand what the composer was putting forth for us to understand, for us to feel during every single moment of his or her music. So, I think it is the perspective that I gained as a singer that has enabled me to consider these aspects of a composition so seriously and thoroughly. In the hands of a great composer such as Handel we can be guided to a poetic or philosophical or even spiritual experience. Perhaps that is one reason why we seek out great art in all of its forms: We want to have unmistakeable representations of our world presented to us in ways that transform our existence to something perhaps better or at least more fully illuminated.

© 2016, Jeffrey Thomas

Charitable IRA Rollovers

Did you know that you can make a tax-free charitable gift to ABS directly from your IRA?

That’s right – since you don’t report this as income, there is no tax! The amount goes against your taxable income, so you can use this gift to stay in a lower tax bracket.

To Qualify:

  • You must be 70 ½ years old or older by the end of the year.
  • Your gift must go directly from your IRA to ABS.
  • Your gift must be less than or equal to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for a married couple.
  • The transfer must be executed by December 31, 2016.

To make a gift, simply contact your IRA provider and use ABS’s tax-ID number: 68-0211969.

Thank you for your consideration, and if you have any questions, please reach out to Garrett Shatzer, Development Director, at (415) 621-7900 ext. 207 or send an email message.


Soloist Cherishes Her Messiah Debut with American Bach Soloists

emily-marvosh-2American contralto Emily Marvosh—recognized for her “sterling voice” and “graceful allure”—will make her debut appearance with American Bach Soloists in Handel’s Messiah this December in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

The Boston-based contralto is no stranger to Handel’s magnum opus:

Messiah is one of my favorite pieces of all time,” says Marvosh. “It is always a delight to perform such a familiar and well-loved masterpiece with a completely new team.”

Emily’s vibrant and engaging voice is effortlessly synchronized with her poised and charismatic stage presence. As a radiant soloist and a virtuoso chamber musician, her elegant fusion of a warm, smooth tone with colorful and penetrating characterization promises to leave a distinct and lasting impression.

“I often say I could perform this piece every other week for the rest of my life and be completely happy,” affirms Marvosh. “There’s always something new to hear – in the orchestra, choir, or the soloists’ parts—and each conductor, soloist, and audience can change the energy and effect of this protean piece, even from night to night! I’m excited to mold my interpretation with Maestro Thomas and the orchestra.”

emily-marvosh-1Deeply personal, Emily’s performances reveal a connection to her own life journey, amplifying the intensity, transparency, and meaning of the piece.

“Every performance of a masterwork like Messiah (or the Passions, for example) carries with it the layered memories from previous performances. My first Messiah, my first professional Messiah, my first period performance Messiah, my first solo Messiah, the Messiah when my partner was on stage with me, the Messiah when I was going through a breakup, Messiah with colleagues who have passed away … ALL of those have influenced my performance experience.”

Intricate and heartfelt, Marvosh believes that both the music and the narrative of Messiah are capable of unearthing and transporting us through the full range of raw human feelings.

“We, the musicians and the audience, traverse many emotions in the course of the evening: expectation, joy, horror, tragedy, consolation, assurance, etc.” Marvosh further explains: “Every year, a different emotion—or one piece of text—resonates a little more with me than the others, and I’m sure everyone in the audience can relate to that experience.”

“As a chamber musician who enjoys ensemble singing, I LOVE having a front row seat for the choral music, which is really the best stuff in the whole piece! That Amen fugue! I die. If you look closely, you will probably see me singing along in more than one place. I’m also very excited to perform in these beautiful venues! Wow!”

Emily Marvosh will join three other soloists Hélène Brunet (soprano), Derek Chester (tenor), and Mischa Bouvier (baritone) for Messiah performances by American Bach Soloists and the renowned American Bach Choir under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas.

To learn more about American Bach Soloists please visit www.americanbach.org
To learn more about Emily Marvosh please visit www.emilymarvosh.com

Tickets are on sale now:

American Bach Soloists Messiah Performances:


To reserve your seat please call 415-621-7900 or purchase online.

Additional Performances:

Photo credit Tatiana Daubek

Fanfare Magazine Interviews Jeffrey Thomas and Praises Messiah Film

Fanfare Magazine, a publication for serious record collectors and music enthusiasts, recently interviewed our own Jeffrey Thomas and reviewed our Blu-ray™ and DVD video recording of “Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral.” To read the article in its entirety, followed by a review of the film, click on the link below.  In the meantime, here are a few of Jeffrey Thomas’s responses to the interviewer’s questions:


“Bringing together Handel’s understanding of how our emotions are moved through music … and the spiritually charged space of Grace Cathedral is an experience that has been shared by countless thousands over the years. We wanted to bring that opportunity to many more individuals around the world.”

“… One of our primary goals was carefully to weave the beauty of Grace Cathedral into the performance footage, showing relevant depictions of scenes at the most appropriate moments. All in all, we hoped to create a film that was a feast for the eyes, the ears, the mind, and the soul.”

“A great composer chose every aspect, every pitch, every note value, etc., deliberately. We must figure out why he or she made a particular decision at a particular place, and then determine how best, how most efficiently we can indicate that rhetoric to the listener.”

“… There is always something to polish to a brighter sheen. That is why, when approaching great works of art, we never grow tired of them. There is always something more to observe, to understand, and to admire.”

ABS Messiah Blu-ray™

From the Review:

“I would have missed something valuable and important had I not seen and heard this release.  [I] found this an extremely gratifying and rewarding experience.”

Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral” is currently available on Blu-ray™ (5.1 DTS-HD™ Surround Sound and 2.0 DTS-HD™ Stereo) or DVD, and streaming on Amazon Prime Video (Google Play and iTunes releases coming soon).

For more information, visit americanbach.org/media.


San Francisco’s Proposition S Funds the Arts!

Vote YES on Prop S

American Bach Soloists does not enter the political arena very often, but this election cycle we have an opportunity to increase funding for the arts in San Francisco. Proposition S, the Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds, returns the tax proceeds to the arts, for which they were initially created, as well as supporting underserved families with safe, affordable housing.

From the bettersf.com website, a Yes on Proposition S ensures a creative and compassionate San Francisco for all. Support Proposition S to:

  • Fund individual artists, community organizations, nonprofit arts groups, and provide programs for underserved communities;
  • Make art experiences more accessible and affordable for all;
  • Support arts, cultural, and music programs for children;
  • Help end family homelessness by providing housing and prevention services for homeless and at-risk, low-income families;
  • Stand with over 70 arts, culture, and homeless service organizations that have come together to secure and increase funding for arts, culture and homeless families

Join American Bach Soloists, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, American Conservatory Theatre, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, SFJazz, and so many others in supporting Prop S.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bettersf/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bettersf2016/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bettersf2016  #YESonS

Thank you for continuing to support ABS and all San Francisco arts organizations.

Don Scott Carpenter
Executive Director