Naples Bach Ensemble sings Bach Mass in B minor

If you go

What Johann Sebastian Bach Mass in B minor, presented by the Bach Ensemble of Naples with soloists and full orchestra

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9

Where: Moorings Presbyterian Church, 791 Harbour Drive, Naples

Tickets: $40 or $50, preferred seating.

To buy: www.TheBachEnsemble.org; or at the door

Bach never heard his most famous Mass in B minor performed.

You can, however.

The sophisticated work, which grazes a musical horizon from trio with tenor to double choir and orchestra, will be the 10th-anniversary benefit performance of the Bach Ensemble in Naples Friday. The organization has cut its regular concert season to concentrate on this single performance: 60 voices, an orchestra of 23, and four professional soloists coming in from across the nation.

In fact, says music director Ron Doiron, this event has singers coming in from around the world. The Bach Ensemble is welcoming back some alumni, and nine European vocalists the group met on its European tour last summer volunteered to sing. They just arrived last weekend.

After all these months of rehearsal, that's not nerve-wracking to the director?

"A lot of them already had the score. This work is a staple in Europe," explained Doiron, in between work with the soloists this week. "I sent them practice CDs, too."

"They're really well prepared," declared Vic Silvestri, the group's founder and still one of its members. "It's a joy singing beside them."

Some of the visitors, he pointed out, are translators working with the World Health Organization who are already performers in a madrigal group.

The Mass in B minor may be a part of standard repertoire overseas. But its 26 movements — the Credo alone has 11 to 12 of them — and its feature-length character have kept it from getting a foothold here. This actually may be the first performance of the entire work in Southwest Florida.

It is the defining work of its period, Doiron says.

"After this piece, and after the music of Bach, you move into a total different style. Every possible different style of singing plus orchestra combination is in this Mass," he said. The work, assembled over 30 years of Bach's life, is a showpiece, rather than a working liturgy.

Doiron also pointed out that it is Neapolitan in style — related to the region of Italy rather than Fifth Avenue South. That 18th-century musical tradition used different voicings within each piece. The Kyrie setting ("Lord Have Mercy") switches from the choir in the first movement to a duet in the second, before it returns to the choir.

That the ensemble has reached this performance level is just one of the achievements of its 10-year life. The group has grown to sponsor an annual student performance competition, the Bach festival; free public music workshops; and high school/college student internships.

Silvestri says he's excited about this concert because it's such a milestone He recalled his feelings before the Bach Ensemble's first concert, at the Moorings Chapel, 10 years ago:

"I thought, 'Omigod, we're really doing this. It's really happening.'"

Friday he may be thinking it again — but with a smile on his face.

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