Organist Abraham Ross and the Zenith ensemble will honor Bach's 335th birthday at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, at St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church in Blue Hill. ZENITH ENSEMBLE PHOTO

Happy birthday, Johann Sebastian!



BLUE HILL — Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday falls on March 21. The composer would be 335 years old and his life’s work will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church.

Hosted by Blue Hill Bach, the concert will feature a solo by Abraham Ross, who will perform on the church’s beautiful Karl Wilhelm pipe organ. The organist, who hails from Holden originally, will be joined by the Bowdoin-based choir Zenith Ensemble, making its debut Blue Hill performance.

“Having watched Abe grow as a musician, we’re thrilled to bring him back to Blue Hill as a featured soloist,” says Blue Hill Bach founder and Executive Director Marcia Gronewold Sly.

The concert will include Bach’s five-voice motet, “Jesu, meine Freude,” BWV 227, a choral work based on the same text by Felix Mendelssohn, who revived interest in Bach in the early 19th century, the Fantasia super “Jesu, meine Freude,” BWV 713, Mendelssohn’s Prelude in G Major, and more. Before the concert, the Zenith Ensemble will work with Blue Hill area youth, teaching them the motet chorales. The students will be invited to join in the performance.

“Hearing the Zenith Ensemble and having them work with local youth will be wonderful opportunities for music lovers of all ages,” says Gronewold Sly.

Abraham Ross, who was Blue Hill Bach’s 2016 Marville Young Artist Fellow, studied organ with Kevin Birch on the historic E. & G.G. Hook organ at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor. He graduated from Oberlin Conservatory with a Master of Music in Historical Performance and is now a doctoral candidate at McGill University. Abe has served as organ scholar at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and at Duke University Chapel, and was one of seven organists invited to participate in the 2019 Sweelinck International Organ Competition.

The Zenith Ensemble is made up of some of the finest professional musicians in the country, including singers who perform frequently with Blue Hill Bach. On March 21, Zenith co-directors Nacole Palmer, soprano, and Matthew Leese, baritone, will be joined by soprano Jennifer Bates, mezzo-soprano Katherine Growdon and tenor Eric Christopher Perry.

Based in northern New England, Zenith strives to serve both populous and remote communities in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, providing rich cultural and community-building experiences.

Blue Hill Bach was founded in 2011 with the mission of presenting historically informed performances, recordings, and educational programs that explore vocal and instrumental music of the Baroque and other repertoire that demonstrates the place of Baroque music in music history.

Directed by Stephen Hammer, Blue Hill Bach draws upon musicians from Maine, greater New England and across the United States who are specialists in Baroque performance practice. Players in the ensemble perform on original period instruments or replicas, creating a sound that is faithful to the composers’ intent. The Blue Hill Bach chorus includes professional singers, members of the local community, and students from area high schools and colleges.

The 2020 Bach birthday concert, which marks the beginning of Blue Hill Bach’s 10th season, will take place at 330 Hinckley Ridge Road in Blue Hill. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Admission is $25 per person, $10 per student and free for ages 18 and under. To reserve seats, call 613-5454 or visit bluehillbach.org.

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