On Good Friday, St. Thomas’s choir will perform Bach’s most complex piece of choral music, and what is widely regarded as the greatest composition in music history.

Choral Connection performing Handel’s Messiah, Christmas 2018. | Image courtesy of Choral Connection.

Bach’s Mass in B Minor was his lifetime achievement. It took him 25 years to complete and was finished only a year before his death, which meant he never heard it performed in its entirety. This monumental piece will be performed in St. Thomas for the first time on April 19, 2019 in Centre Street Baptist Church’s striking sanctuary. Though Choral Connection has never performed a piece this difficult, Artistic Director Hugh Van Pelt says he is “quite confident” in the choir. Hugh is co-founder of Choral Connection with his wife Lucy, and will be conducting the performance.

Choral Connection’s Artistic Director Hugh Van Pelt conducting the Handel’s Messiah performance, Christmas 2018. | Image courtesy of Choral Connection.

Choral Connection has brought together accomplished singers and professional musicians in the London and St. Thomas area since it began in 2003. The choir performs Handel’s Messiah annually at Christmas, which has been growing in popularity recently and sold out last year. Hugh says that many of their singers have music degrees and make their living in music, but have joined Choral Connection simply for the love of making music.

“Rehearsals aren’t always easy when you’re trying to prepare for something, but there’s just a dedication and love for what we’re doing,” he explains. Choral Connection is a non-profit organization, relying on community support to cover expenses like the paid orchestra that accompanies the choir for performances.

Choral Connection performing Handel’s Messiah, Christmas 2018. | Image courtesy of Choral Connection.

The St. Thomas-based choir has gained a far-reaching reputation for its high level of proficiency. Hugh says the professional soloists they hire often come to St. Thomas expecting a half-rate production because of the small community. When they join the choir, however, they are so impressed that they want to keep coming back, and word has spread so that the Van Pelts often hear that accomplished musicians worldwide have been singing their praises, as it were.

Hugh and Lucy Van Pelt have both been educated in music and involved in it all of their lives, passing on their love of classical music to their two children. However, Hugh says, “We always told our children, ‘Only go into music if you feel you absolutely have to, because there’s not a lot of money in it.’ That being said, both of them are in music,” he laughs. Their son is a violinist and teacher at Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts, and their daughter Chelsea is a freelance singer in Toronto and the soprano soloist for the Bach performance.

Lucy Van Pelt, co-founder and accompanying pianist of Choral Connection, performing Handel’s Messiah, Christmas 2018. | Image courtesy of Choral Connection.

Bach’s Mass in B Minor will be performed by around 50 singers and an orchestra in the acoustically advantageous sanctuary at Centre Street Baptist. Hugh says the piece is complex and rewarding on many different levels, with its multiple intertwined melody lines that Bach is known for. A Mass is generally a compilation of the Christian faith, and Bach’s Mass includes parts of the Biblical narrative. The performance day, Good Friday, was chosen to reflect the piece’s religious nature.

To secure your tickets to Choral Connection’s performance of the Bach B Minor Mass, visit Jennings Furniture and Design (432 Talbot St.) or call Lucy at 519-661-6902. You can also use choralconnection.ca to contact the organization about tickets. As Hugh says, “It is well worth coming to hear.”