By Audrey Anderson
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
The Union Congregational Church in East Walpole was delighted to welcome Chris Humbert Jr., bass-baritone, to sing pieces composed by J. S. Bach, as part of their Bach Sunday worship service, held on March 26. The liturgy included congregational hymns and Chris’s powerful singing, as well as an organ postlude composed by Bach. Rev. Dr. Aaron Shepherd wove the example of Bach’s music and life into his Lenten sermon.
Chris Humbert Jr. is a frequent oratorio and concert singer, as well as an operatic performer. He has performed in operatic and theatrical productions in his home state of Ohio, as well as with The Seagle Festival, Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Annapolis Opera, Detroit Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Opera St. Louis, Manhattan Concert Productions (at Carnegie Hall), and the Minnesota Orchestra. Chris is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Opera Performance at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he will perform as Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro from April 13 to April 16.
Union Congregational’s choir director, James Myers, accompanied Chris and the choir and marvelously performed the complex organ Postlude, “English Suite III: Allegro” by Bach.
In addition to joining in with the Union Congregational Church’s choir, Chris performed three solo pieces.
The Prelude, Bach’s “Mein teuer Heiland from St. John Passion,” illustrates a Christian’s questioning if it could truly be that, through Christ’s loving sacrifice, the world has been redeemed. Chris’s commanding voice, crisp diction, and deft use of dynamics conveyed the Christian’s amazement that salvation has been won.
The Anthem, “Komm, suesser Tod,” by Bach/Christiansen speaks of a Christian’s dilemma of living with life and death or sin and saintliness simultaneously, and his longing for eternal rest. Chris intensely poured meaning into the words and music.
The featured solo “Betrachte, meine Seel from St. John Passion” by Bach conveyed the pain at Christ’s suffering along with the joy of eternal rest with God. Chris used his strong, deep voice and accomplished musicality to express these themes.
In his sermon, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Shepherd discussed Bach as a revered musician for the state and church, while also being impatient and neglecting church choir practice and teaching: the saintly/sinful human condition explored in his music. Rev. Shepherd also explored Bach’s devotion to using his musical gifts to glorify God, and the contrast between the motivations of Bach and his contemporaries with that of our present-day musicians, who sometimes focus on prizing their individual innovation and accomplishment as an artistic goal. Rev. Shepherd linked this difference with the current debate in churches around what they have to change or do to continue to be relevant versus focusing on God’s promise to humanity to connect with the world.
For further information about Chris Humbert, check out his website at: https://www.chrishumbert.com/