A few leaves clung to the trees on a damp autumn morning as four Baroque-trained musicians huddled around a harpsichord. The Bach Aria Soloists were busy preparing for this Saturday's performance of 'Marriage of True Minds,' a collaboration with Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and the Kansas City Public Library.
"Working with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and bringing these two giants of literature and music together seems like perfection," says Elizabeth Suh Lane, executive-artistic director of the group. "We are trying to program music, concerts, and events that we would want to attend ourselves.
For Bach Aria Soloists, Saturday's performance marks just the beginning of a season of partnerships with other area groups including NewEar, and the Owen/Cox Dance Group.
"The brilliance of collaboration is that you get some different perspectives," says harpsichordist Elisa Bickers. "The music is really only half of what Saturday's performance is going to be about. It is about dramatic timing and us staying out of the way or coming to the forefront depending on what is going on. It's a challenge, but it's fun."
Suh Lane says the Bach Aria Soloists have a good reason for collaborating.
"We're all coming together to make a summit for the pieces that we want to communicate to the public. And collaborating will help to deliver that message of whatever it is that we're playing," she says.
Bach's music is like a tall tree
"Bach is kind of a perfect artist," says guitar player Beau Bledsoe. "It's like a really tall tree. You can't really take it in, in one glance, you just kind of keep going up and up and up and up and there's more and more."
For Bickers, the intellectual qualities draw her into Bach's music. "The span of his creativity is mind boggling and to get to perform it and study it in depth, to really get to know the pieces is just a huge gift," Bickers says.
"I always have the same emotion when I start a new piece," he says. "This is pretty doable, because the ink on the page, it's not that threatening, but once you get into it and understand the relations of the notes and what he's trying to do, it unravels and it becomes very complex."
After 14 years of leading the group, Suh Lane says, many of the members have changed but her connection to Bach has remained.
"The one major thing that evolved from the beginning is that I, ideally, wanted to play lots and lots of Bach," says Suh Lane. "We actually did do that from the start. But then we quickly realized that we are living in Kansas City and not in Leipzig, not in Europe. Now we are trying to make it as diverse as possible, always including a little bit of Bach, at least some Bach, because it is my heart and soul."
Bach Aria Soloists and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival present Marriage of True Minds at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Kansas City Public Library, Central branch, 14 West 10th St., Kansas City, Mo. 816-820-1473.