Can’t we get enough of Blanche Moyse’s Bach?

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By Jim Lowe
THE LOWE DOWN

Blanche Moyse, founder and director of the legendary New England Bach Festival, died in 2011 and last conducted it in 2004, but audiences — and musicians — still can’t get enough of her take on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Brattleboro Music Center will present the sixth annual Blanche Moyse Memorial Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Marlboro College’s Persons Auditorium, featuring the Blanche Moyse Chorale, vocal soloists including soprano Hyunah Yu, and members of the New England Bach Festival Orchestra, conducted by Mary Westbrook-Geha.

“It’s just wonderful to be doing it,” says Westbrook-Geha, Moyse’s longtime mezzo-soprano soloist and now director of the Blanche Moyse Chorale.

“And the musicians that are coming feel that way too,” Westbrook-Geha said in a recent phone interview. “Of course, the Chorale feels that way, but it’s so cool to send out emails to these wonderful players and they immediately write back, saying ‘I can do this. I’m so excited.’

“They’re all really anxious to get up here and play Bach together.”

This year’s program features Bach’s Motet No. 2, “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,” BWV 226, and No. 6, “Lobet den Herrn (Psalm 117),” BWV 230, sandwiching the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, BWV 1046.

The second half opens with the Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060, featuring Mayuki Fukuhara and Stephen Taylor respectively. The concert closes with Short Mass in F Major, BWV 233.

“It’s just really sweet,” Westbrook-Geha said of the Mass. “It’s got three really beautiful arias, one for soprano, one for alto, one for bass, just really beautiful arias. There’s an opening chorus, the Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie; there’s the Gloria, which is a big tour de force for the French horn; then there’s the three arias.

“And we end with the Cum sancto spiritu, and that’s it — about 30 minutes long,” she said.

Blanche Honegger Moyse (1909-2011) was one of the foremost conductors of the music of Bach of the 20th century. She moved to Vermont in 1949 and was a co-founder of Marlboro Music Festival. With then-husband Louis Moyse, she co-founded the Brattleboro Music Center in 1951, and the New England Bach Festival in 1969. It was as director of the Bach Festival, which she last conducted at age 95, that she inspired generations of audiences and musicians alike.

“I’m very excited,” Westbrook-Geha said. “I love the program. I’m just really excited with the orchestra. And the chorus sounds good.

“We had a big retreat last weekend — and we’re ready.”

Blanche Moyse Memorial Concert
The Brattleboro Music Center presents the sixth annual Blanche Moyse Memorial Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Marlboro College’s Persons Auditorium in Marlboro, featuring the Blanche Moyse Chorale, vocal soloists including soprano Hyunah Yu, and members of the New England Bach Festival Orchestra, conducted by Mary Westbrook-Geha. Tickets are $22-$45, $20-$40 in advance; call 802-257-4523, or go online to www.bmcvt.org.