Bach Choir of Pittsburgh was founded in 1934 to perform works of Johann Sebastian Bach exclusively.Under the leadership of Conductor and Artistic Director Thomas W. Douglas, the choir continues to evolve from a narrowly-focused ensemble to a larger, more inclusive choir that performs major choral works by composers from the Renaissance through the contemporary period.
Music critics have commended the choir for “stretching its musical wings,” handling“tricky works not only with technical skills, but with spirit and seeming inspiration,” selecting works that “showcase the choir’s dynamic range,” and presenting a “worthy performance” which “is a transforming experience.”At the close of the 2006-2007 season, a critic wrote that “Douglas is shaping the choir into a Pittsburgh musical force.”
A highlight of Douglas’s second season was the performance of newly-commissioned jazz and choral works by Joe Negri and Tom Roberts. These accomplished artists synthesized the poetry of Langston Hughes and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance into a series of extraordinary pieces which the choir and a jazz combo performed to enthusiastic audience acclaim.
The 2006-2007 season “Outside the Bach(s)” brought new and different musical experiences to the western Pennsylvania region. The choir performed such masterworks as Mozart’s moving Requiem Mass and innovative works like PDQ Bach’s Missa Hilarious. The subscription series finished with the Pittsburgh premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s incredible Mass. This piece enabled the choir to forge collaborations with organizations such as the Children’s Festival Chorus, the Greer Reed Dance Company, and select student choristers from St. Vincent and Seton Hill Universities.
The 2007-2008 season “No Turning Bach” saw the Bach Choir joining forces for the first time with the Carnegie Mellon University Wind Ensemble. This concert featured the U.S. premiere of Rainland, a haunting piece by a young British composer, Joseph Phibbs. In December the choir brought back the acclaimed Messiah in Space which was first presented in the 2005-2006 season. Performed in the Hunt Armory, this pair of concerts was voted one of the “Top Ten Performances of 2007” by Andrew Druckenbrod of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rounding out the season was a thought-provoking concert featuring music born out of slavery and servitude. From spirituals to reggae, the choir performed traditional music in innovative and intriguing ways.
In January 2008 the choir was again invited to perform with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in West Virginia. This performance was an all-Russian program including Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky. All music was sung in Russian.
Bach Choir of Pittsburgh produces a three-program concert season, with multiple performances of each program in locations throughout Allegheny and surrounding counties. In support of the season, Bach Choir holds semi-annual open auditions to fill choir member positions; contracts rehearsal and performance space, and produces a season brochure and concert-specific marketing materials. Bach Choir engages professional musicians in support of concert activities, and actively pursues concert engagements throughout the tri-state area, including free and reduced-admission performances in under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The Choir is critically acclaimed for its innovative, precise, and entertaining concert performances. Local music critics commend the Choir for handling “tricky work not only with technical skill, but with spirit and seeming inspiration.” They praise Artistic Director Thomas Douglas as well. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says “One has to admire Artistic Director and Conductor Thomas Douglas for thinking out of the proverbial box when it comes to choral music”. And the Tribune-Review raves, “Douglas is shaping the choir into a Pittsburgh musical force!”.