Two of the betters ways to spend your lunch hour in downtown Washington are to go to the Tuesday noontime concert at the Church of the Epiphany and to the Wednesday noontime “Happenings” program at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Theatre.
This week, Epiphany presented a wonderful all Bach program with cellist Sarah Biber, counter-tenor Charles Humphries, soprano Rebecca Kellerman Petretta, and organist/music director Jeremy Filsell. Wonderful musicians and an excellent program.
The two highlights for me (more dependent on the music I like, rather than the quality of the performances) were the familiar Bach Suite for solo cello (BWV 1007) performed by Biber (she seemed to have problem with one string, but that was minor and she corrected it after the first movement), and a Chorale Partita by Bach played on the organ by Filsell.
I did not know what a chorale partita is. Wikipedia tells me that it is a “large scale multimovement piece of music based on a chorale and written for a keyboard instrument”. The Bach piece seems to have been written with 11 variations based on a Lutheran choral piecce – requiring total changes of form and sound, much of it sounding much more modern than standard Bach. Still sort of a mystery to me, but Filsell (who always amazes me) was at one with the organ throughout.
As for the vocal pieces, I have heard the soloists at Epiphany before and they are talented vocalists, and because you don’t normally hear counter-tenors, listening to Humphries is always fascinating.
Of course, the program at the Harman was much different. This was a program put on by the Academy of Classical Acting, an MFA program sponsored by the Shakespeare Theatre and George Washington University, training experienced actors in Shakespearean and other classic texts. This program was comprised of seven short, separate scenes from Shakespearean plays – Henry IV and VI, parts 2; Timon of Athens, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline and Hamlet. All actors were good, some were terrific. Some of the scenes flowed right along; I had a problem following a couple of them (scenes I was not familiar with). Definitely glad I was there.
Both of these programs were free. Another example of why being retired in Washington is such a good idea.
I should say that I always combine these programs with an informal and quick lunch. When I go to Epiphany, I usually just go next door to Au Bon Pain, where I put together a make-your-own salad. When I go to Harman, I like to sample the various food trucks lining 7th Street near the National Portrait Gallery. Yesterday it was chicken, rice and salad from the Korean B-B-Q truck. Excellent. I will do it again.