The Cal Poly Early Music Ensemble will present “We’re Bach In The Mission” in Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on Jan. 22. The student performers will be joined by Cal Poly faculty members as well as professionals from Santa Barbara and Los Angeles as they play three pieces from the beginning of Bach’s career.
Thomas Davies, conductor of the ensemble, is organizing the concert with the conductor of the Cal Poly Symphony, David Arrivée. The two professors wanted students to have an opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals.
“From the get-go we wanted to mix faculty and students performing,” Arrivée said.
Davies also invited Paul Sherman, an oboist from Los Angeles, as well as professors Grey Brothers and Michael Shasberger from Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Davies said this will give Cal Poly students an idea of how musicians work in the real world.
“They get to sit there and rub shoulders with professionals,” Davies said.
In previous Cal Poly concerts, faculty members have been featured soloists but have never performed as part of an ensemble with students.
Music junior Claire MacKenzie said she finds the idea of singing with her professors exciting.
“We’ve never been able to collaborate with our professors on the same level,” MacKenzie said. “It’s really an honor to have this opportunity.”
The Early Music Ensemble gets its from the time period its pieces come from. They focus on music from the 16th and 17th century almost exclusively, and one of the biggest names from this time period is J.S. Bach.
“A lot of the music we sing is from the Baroque era and the Renaissance,” MacKenzie said.
This time period appealed to Davies and Arrivée in particular when they were planning the concert.
“Tom and I have been wanting to do this for a long time,” Arrivée said. “We both love Baroque music.”
The concert will begin with an instrumental piece, Bach’s “Orchestral Suite in C Major,” a set of stylized dances performed by the Cal Poly Symphony and faculty guests. The ensemble and other choral guests will join for the cantata, “Aus der Tiefen rufe, Herr, zu dir” and the motet, “Ich Lass dich nicht,” a call-and-response piece in which the choir and orchestra will split into two parts.
Gurveer Deol, a student member of the ensemble, said the choral pieces are entirely in German, which can be a challenge to sing.
“The consonants can trip you up,” Deol said. “I feel like I’m spitting a lot.”
Although the choral pieces are in German, Davies encourages audience members not to be intimidated. He will give a brief history of each piece beforehand and translations of the choral numbers will be in the program.
He said he hopes the beauty of the arrangements will move people.
“You have to come ready to listen,” Davies said. “It’s not about visual … Shut your eyes for a minute or two and just listen to the music.”
MacKenzie said he anticipates the mission will be a perfect setting for Bach’s compositions.
“(The songs are) very religious in context, and they sound that way,” he said. “They sound like sacred church music.”
The mission was not just chosen because of its religious significance, Davies said. Cal Poly choirs have performed there several times before, and the sound dynamics are ideal for concerts.
“The mission is a wonderful place to sing because it’s a live acoustic,” Davies said.
Davies said he hopes to leave the audience with an admiration for Bach’s talent as a composer.
“He was just a master at putting together music and having music be affected by the texts,” Davies said.
The event begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors, $12 for general admission and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Ticket Office.