Bach Cantatas in Israel – Time to fly!

Time to fly! 

This week I’ll be travelling to Israel with Armonico Consort to perform three concerts, including two which will highlight our ongoing project to perform and record the solo soprano Cantatas of J.S. Bach. It’s a very busy touring schedule, with a concert on each full day we spend in the country. There won’t be much time for sight-seeing, but I’m sure we will soak up plenty of Middle Eastern atmosphere in our musical, cultural and culinary encounters.

We’ve had our first rehearsal last week, and although there were a lot of notes to get through in a short session, I could feel the excitement for our performances building as we dived back into these amazing pieces. In my preparation for this tour, I’ve been focusing on a few technical challenges that still need my careful attention, even though I’ve sung these phrases on stage and in my practice room hundreds of times. The lightning quick runs in the opening aria of BWV 210 ‘O holder Tag’ still need time and encouragement to settle in my muscle memory, so I spend a few minutes during my warm-up taking them note by note, turning the metronome up step by step until they are as fluid as I need them to be.

As our departure date approaches, I cannot help but reminisce about my first trip to Tel Aviv back in 2001 when I was a young guest performer at the Felicja Blumental International Festival. One could say that not much has changed for me since that time. Yes, I’m older and more experienced, and I’ve certainly clocked up a lot of air miles. But I’m still singing concerts and operas and making music with talented and inspiring colleagues all over the world, and I can say with certainty that Bach is still my ‘desert island’  composer.

My hope is that our public in Israel will catch the enthusiasm my colleagues and I feel for this music. The Felicja Blumental International Festival, now in its 20th year, is as ambitious and diverse in its programming as it was when I first sang there. Tel Aviv is a big, busy city with fabulous food, exciting nightlife and a discerning cultural population, and in both my previous experiences of Israeli audiences, (I have also sung at the Jerusalem Festival) I have found them to be incredibly enthusiastic and appreciative of the music and art that comes their way.

And now it’s almost time to fly… I must prepare both vocally and physically for the flight and that florid coloratura!

Gillian Keith, 8 May 2018