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Bach is back, for a festival in Scranton

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Bach is back.

As in, the Arcadia Chorale’s 35th annual Bach Festival, after a two-year absence, is back in Scranton – and Music Director Matthew Rupcich is thrilled.

“I’m just writing an email to the orchestra,” he said when answering his phone earlier this week. “Sharing with them how fortunate and blessed we are at some place and time, regarding the pandemic, that we can perform without a mask and do it with confidence.”

After being canceled in 2020 and 2021, the Bach Festival offers three concerts this weekend, including an organ recital on Saturday afternoon, chamber music on Saturday evening, and choral singing on Sunday afternoon.

As the choir director, Rupcich knows that the singers worked diligently to prepare several treats for the audience.

“It’s breathtaking,” he said, speaking of “Beatus Vir,” a piece composer Claudio Monteverdi composed for a six-voice choir in 1630. Based on Psalm 112, “ it’s ethereal and quite beautiful,” he said, noting “The final ‘amen’ is one of the most glorious final ‘amen’s I’ve ever known.”

Johann Sebastian Bach himself will be represented in the choral concert by ‘Jesu Meine Freude’, which is one of the six motets he wrote when he arrived at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

“It’s rarely done because it’s very hard to sing,” Rupcich said. “The choir is doing brilliantly, and they almost have to be vocal acrobats.”

“People see this work as very dramatic and moving. It depicts Jesus Christ freeing man from sin and death,” the musical director added, noting that it contains 11 movements, with “the even-numbered movements coming from Scripture and the odd-numbered movements coming from Bach’s librettist. Johann Frank”.

The last piece, by George Frideric Handel, is Dettingen Te Deum, which Rupcich described as “a very festive work, in almost militaristic fashion, very energetic and very uplifting”.

Handel was court composer at the Chapel Royal in London, where King George II commissioned the work after he, as the last reigning British monarch to lead troops in battle, helped Austrian forces defeat the French at Dettingen, in Bavaria.

“It features three mezzo soloists — they have a few short solos — and Moses Andrade, our bass soloist, has a substantial part of it,” Rupcich said.

The Bach Festival opens at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 19 with an organ recital by Mark Laubach, who will perform works by Bach and Handel and other composers at Elm Park Methodist Church, 712 Linden St., Scranton .

The chamber music concert, featuring members of the Arcadia Festival Orchestra, will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 550 Madison Ave., Scranton.

The Arcadia Chorale concert, scheduled for Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m., will also take place at the Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Admission to the organ recital is free for all. Tickets for the Chamber Music Concert and Arcadia Chorale Concert are free for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for general admission.

Tickets are available at arcadiachorale.org or by calling 570-871-8350.