Witnessing Art Heals (3/3)

Saturday was filled with witnessing the best art in our little town of Bethlehem. After living here for eleven years, I finally had the opportunity to hear the Bach B Minor Mass in Packer Church. This piece has been sung annually for 110 (+?) years.

In a nine-minute video about the annual Bach festival in Bethlehem, the artistic director, Greg Funfgeld states,

“In a world where there is so much that is transitional, this is something that is forever… [this piece] speaks to our human condition. Bach knew loss, he knew sorrow, he knew great joy, and I think he puts all of those emotions in his music. And I think we feel more deeply because of what he helps us understand.”

Amen.  But don’t stop watching the video after that quote. Later on, the countertenor soloist says, “each time we perform the Mass, it’s an echo of the voices of everyone who’s sung it before.”

The B minor mass will have another performance next Saturday. Find out more about it, and all of the other festival activities on The Bethlehem Bach Choir website; rich with wonderful content for audiences to dig in a little deeper before fully experiencing the art. Steve and I enjoyed deeply listening to Bach’s late period composition. My head flooded between the music history and the performance practice I studied for so many years. I ached to get back to my own art. I wanted to return again to the empty space of vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows to fill it with a few rounds of Bach Cello suites on the bassoon. I’m hoping to hear local students perform next Saturday at the Zimmerman Coffeehouse – because this organization not only believes in tradition; but in supporting the next generation to carry it on.

After listening to the B minor mass, we headed to Zoellner to watch the 11th annual Young Playwrights Festival of Bethlehem’s Touchstone Theatre. The project director, Mary Wright introduced the evening with, “You are about to see the tip of the iceberg of what the students do in the project.” Touchstone artists work with students in local schools to create original works of art. The students’ written work may only result in one final page of script. But that is only after pages and pages of writing and developing ideas after playing lots of theatre games that unlock their imagination. The directors of each selected play (of hundreds written in a year of multiple residencies) bring it to life with scenery, costumes, sound effects, music, and cast each play with volunteer actors from the community.

It’s a night of joy. Oh, and thanks to my friend at Zoellner (REM), we got a picture of our kids goofing it up backstage in their “dancing husky siblings” costumes.

photo credit, RE Miller.
photo credit, RE Miller.

Steve and I are Young Playwrights Festival supporters, not just because our family fell in love with Touchstone, but because we see the faces of all of the young playwrights and their families. We see the pride in what happens when adults listen to children’s ideas and take them seriously. Here’s a link to the project website, worth reading. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, give Touchstone a donation to support this work in our community.

Tradition, AND nurturing the next generation of creativity in our community. Creativity isn’t a thing that exists because we have venues and festivals. It’s people doing things in those venues and with these festivals. It’s a community that reaps the benefits of those dedicated people; the artists of our community (professional and avocational) doing those things. Fully experiencing this art brought me back to the love I have of the Bethlehem arts scene. The day rehabilitated my passion for supporting the arts and the many ways our experiencing it brings us closer to our own humanity.


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