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March 27, 1900. The ears of a nation turn to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At four in the afternoon two hundred singers file into the Moravian Church to present for the first time in America Johann Sebastian Bach’s colossal Mass in B Minor. Many consider this two-hour masterpiece one of the greatest musical works in western civilization. That pioneering performance by the new Bach Choir of Bethlehem launched a rich and beloved tradition which continues today.
Make a Joyful Noise: The Bethlehem Bach Choir pays tribute to America’s first Bach choir. For more than a century this groundbreaking group of volunteers has brought the work of the prolific and distinguished German composer to audiences around the world. Each May hundreds of Bach lovers from throughout the country and beyond travel to Bethlehem to experience the annual Bach festival.
Since an eastern European religious group called Moravians settled Bethlehem in 1740, this community has fostered a strong musical culture. Early Moravians are credited for bringing instruments to America; offered the first concerts to a country seeking independence; and introduced a growing nation to the marvelous works of European composers – particularly Bach.
Make a Joyful Noise: The Bethlehem Bach Choir takes you front and center to the exhilarating performance of the Mass in B Minor on May 11, 2003. The program also tells how this little known Pennsylvania town became synonymous with Bach. You’ll meet the ordinary people with extraordinary voices who dedicate themselves to continuing the legacy of one of history’s greatest composers.
Narrated by Charles Osgood
Sponsors: The Rider Pool Foundation, PPTN, Members PBS 39