By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor, replete with 48 singers and orchestra, will fill the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center for the first time this Sunday afternoon.
Dewey Ehling, conductor of the Peninsula Singers and the Port Townsend Community Orchestra, first imagined this event a year ago.
He and his musicians have been rehearsing Bach’s most famous masterwork since January; when they take the stage at 2 p.m. Sunday, an ensemble of singers and players from across the United States will come together.
The alto soloist in the Mass will be Esther Morgan-Ellis, who grew up in Port Angeles and who is about to receive her doctorate in music history from Yale. She’s coming home to sing on Sunday with the choir, and with four vocalists from Seattle: sopranos Sharon Annette Lancaster and Janeanne Houston, tenor Ross Hauck and baritone Glenn Guhr.
Morgan-Ellis, 28, is the daughter of well-known musicians and teachers Phil and Deborah Morgan-Ellis. She left Port Angeles in 2002 to earn a degree in cello performance from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, and went on to Yale, where she has added singing to her repertoire. As a member of the Yale Schola Cantorum, a professional choir, she first sang the Mass in B Minor in 2009 on a tour of China and South Korea. This year, the singers are doing it again in Japan and Singapore.
This music is “Bach at his very best. It has a little bit of everything,” said Morgan-Ellis.
“The B Minor Mass is one of the great masterpieces of Western music. And it’s terrifically interesting: Bach thoughtfully interpreted every passage of the Mass, and he used every musical style and technique in his repertoire.”
Ehling likewise adores the work.
“I’m not even Catholic,” the conductor said, adding that Bach wasn’t either. But Ehling loves the concept of the Latin Mass in a musical setting.
“I think people will find the spirituality in it,” whatever their beliefs.
In addition to the professional singers, Ehling will bring a set of baroque trumpeters from Seattle: Ed Castro, George Steward and Zachary Lyman. “The trumpeters make it or break it,” said the maestro, and these three will make it.
The list goes on: Allison Tutton, daughter of Valerie and Dan Tutton of Port Angeles, will play the French horn solo in “Et in Spiritum Sanctum,” a part of the Mass. Tutton is studying French horn in Chicago.
Other orchestra players having solo roles will be violinist Kate Dean, oboe d’amore player Anne Krabill and flutist Judy Johnson. Several in the orchestra are from Port Townsend; “they flocked over,” Ehling said.
Tickets to Sunday’s performance are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students and free for children 12 and under. Outlets include Elliott’s Antique Emporium, 135 E. First St., Port Angeles, and Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St. in Sequim. Remaining seats will be sold at the door.
Yet another longtime Port Angeles resident is returning for this occasion. Cellist Fred Thompson, who played for years with the Port Angeles Symphony, now lives in Oregon, but he will come north with his cello, while his wife Jean will sing in the chorus.
“Fred was up here last fall,” Ehling recalled. “I told him we were doing the B Minor Mass, and he said, ‘Say no more. I’m in.’”