APPRECIATION: Bach warms souls, if not hands, at PS21

CHATHAM—On a summer Sunday that begged for SmartWool and fleece, at a venue where performers anchored sheet music to the stand with clothespins, a Bach concert full of hummable tunes was the answer.

PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century opened its 10th season under the saddlespan tent on Route 66 to a full house, with the traditional Paul Grunberg Memorial Bach Concert. The concert is held annually in memory of the husband of Judy Grunberg, founder and president of PS21. In the seats were PS21 fans from Chatham, Spencertown, Claverack, Hudson, Kinderhook and, I am sure, many more places.

Kinderhook’s David Smith directed the Broad Street Chorale and Orchestra, with soloists. They began with an absolute treat, the Concerto for Keyboard in D minor with Smith on the portable organ. The toe-tapping allegro and presto movements bracketed an adagio with plucked violin strings.

This was followed by a motet, “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden” (Praise the Lord, All Nations) with the Chorale and Alexander Bonus, who teaches at Bard College, on organ, and Jay Shulman, of Claverack, on cello. The Orchestra was strong throughout the afternoon, but in this motet, the chorus, particularly the women’s voices, seemed thin.

Perhaps the tent was a factor, since the chorus was all but singing outdoors, and once PS21 has moved into its permanent building (by summer 2016, according to plan), the voice acoustics will be better.

The Chorale was larger, and stronger, on a cantata “Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich” (Lord I Long for You). The chorus alternated with a soprano aria by Amanda Boyd-Grout, and solos by tenor Derek Stannard, baritone Michael Hofmann and mezzo-soprano Vicki Smith. Also featured were Cornelia McGiver, bassoon, Erica Pickhardt, cello, and Bonus, organ.

At intermission concertgoers could warm up with coffee, but a woman who asked for almond milk found it unavailable. We were standing on the grass, after all, outdoors, not in Starbucks. But PS21’s new building will have a cafe, and while Judy Grundberg promises to keep things simple there, the fridge may have room for almond milk.

The Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor is a familiar piece, and I hummed it all the way home. Featured players, Karen Hosmer on oboe and Mitsuko Suzuki on violin, did it complete justice. And all the musicians got together for a final cantata, “Alles nur nach Gottes Willen” (Everything According to God’s Will Alone). In addition to the soloists previously heard, Jessica Belflower and Kathryn Aldous were featured on violin.

A reception followed, at which concertgoers could enjoy a glass (not a plastic cup) of sangria or lemonade with just the finest spray of rain on their faces, and if the breeze was cool, it was also perfectly fresh.

On a good day, one can picnic before a program at PS21, and programs are starting here, starting now. There’s drama (Hudson Air Radio Theater on July 3 and 5), comedy (Summer Shtick! July 10), and music (Dom Flemons July 11, North Indian July 12 and Mexican folk July18).

Just for Fun Fridays, especially for kids, start July 10. The Chatham Dance Festival takes off August 7 with Brian Sanders’ JUNK and continues through August. Movie Tuesdays (free!) began this week and continue July 7 with “Genghis Blues.”

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