Performing Arts

Bach Aria Soloists aim high in season of elegant offerings

Elisa Williams Bickers (left), Elizabeth Suh Lane and Sarah Tannehill Anderson make up the core of Bach Aria Soloists.
Elisa Williams Bickers (left), Elizabeth Suh Lane and Sarah Tannehill Anderson make up the core of Bach Aria Soloists.

The Bach Aria Soloists are an important part of Kansas City’s classical music scene. The ensemble’s carefully thought out programming and technically superb performances add refinement and grace to the city’s musical offerings. Founded and led by violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane, the group has just announced its 19th season, and it’s filled with rare delights and discoveries.

Bach Aria Soloists have a somewhat adjustable make-up of musicians, depending on the repertoire being performed. Guitarist Beau Bledsoe is a frequent guest when Spanish or medieval music is on the bill. Next season, cellist Hannah Collins will perform on several programs.

But the three constants are Lane, a fantastic violinist and a former member of the London Symphony Orchestra, keyboardist Elisa Williams Bickers, who also serves as principal organist at Village Presbyterian Church, and soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson, one of Kansas City’s most popular singers.

“We have an excellent corps of musicians who are at the top of what they do,” Lane said.

Lane, who has a penchant for combining music with the visual arts, is beginning the season with a free concert on Sept. 8 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Day at the Museum will feature works by Bach, Handel, Cecilia McDowall and other composers.

In October, BAS will perform one of its very popular hauskonzerts, which re-create the intimacy of an 18th century chamber recital in one of Kansas City’s most beautiful homes. On Oct. 7, the group will perform in the home of Jeff Zumsteg and Jeff Linville.

Zumsteg House
The home of Jeff Zumsteg and Jeff Linville will be the site of the annual hauskonzert.

“Our really dedicated patrons love the hauskonzerts so much,” Lane said. “The beautiful thing about doing a hauskonzert is the intimacy, and we always have a wonderful, elaborate reception. It’s a really nice way to get to know people more personally.

“But it does elevate the ticket price a little because we’re in a private home with limited number of seats, but they’re a very special treat.”

Hannah Collins
Cellist Hannah Collins will join the ensemble for two concerts.
Mermagen
Cellist Michael Mermagen will play on “A Winters Tale.”

Over the years, Bach Aria Soloists have joined music with spoken word to great effect. In December, Carlsen Center Presents will offer a collaboration of the ensemble and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in “A Winter’s Tale.” The program, perfectly timed for the Christmas season, will feature frosty music and wintry scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Michael Mermagen will be the guest cellist.

“Celebrating Women” in February will do just that. Female composers, from the medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen to Kansas City’s own Chen Yi, will be featured.

“We’re constantly playing all these male composers,” Lane said. “It’s good to remind everyone about the great women throughout history who have been important composers.”

In April, the season will end as it began, in an art museum, this time the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, senior curator of European art, will share her knowledge about works in the museum’s Baroque and impressionist European galleries, as Bach Aria Soloists perform appropriate music.

“Some of the music that we’ll do will include Ravel, Monteverdi, and we’ll definitely do some Barbara Strozzi to accompany the beautiful Bernardo Strozzi painting of St. Cecilia. Barbara was an illegitimate child, but her very wealthy father embraced her and introduced her to all the important intellectuals of that time. There is research that shows she was related to Bernardo, who was one of those intellectuals.”

It’s a testament to Bach Aria Soloists that in the competitive arts environment of Kansas City they have not only survived for 19 years, but have thrived and become one of Kansas City’s most beloved ensembles. Lane attributes the group’s success to its commitment to quality and its quest for excellence.

“The way I see it, why wouldn’t you shoot for the top, instead of settling and being happy with middle of the road?” she said. “We try to soar a little more and go beyond. We never settle for mediocrity.”

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@kcartsbeat.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.

Bach Aria Soloists’ season

Sept. 8: Day at the Museum. Works by Bach, Handel, McDowall and others. Free but reservations required. (Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd.)

Oct. 7: Annual October Hauskonzert with cellist Hannah Collins. Music by Handel, Bernstein, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and others. (The home of Jeff Zumsteg and Jeff Linville)

Dec. 7: A Winter’s Tale in Word and Song with cellist Michael Mermagen. The Bach Aria Soloists will be joined by actors from the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival for seasonal music and scenes from Shakespeare. (Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park)

Dec. 8: A Winter’s Tale at the Kansas City Public Library. Excerpts from A Winter’s Tale in Word and Song. Free but reservations required. (Kansas City Public Library, 14 W. 10th St.)

Feb. 1, 2019: Celebrating Women, with cellist Hannah Collins. Female composers from the Middle Ages to today. (1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods)

April 6: Bach Aria Soloists at the Nelson. Baroque and impressionist music performed in the European galleries. (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak St.)

For tickets and to make reservations for free events, visit bachariasoloists.com.

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