Press Release March 20, 2018

May 16, 2018: For immediate release

For further information call 510-725-2246 or email Jan Murota, publicity chair, at  Also see website at
Mendelssohn’s St. Paul oratorio to be performed in June by the Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra (BCCO) under the direction of Maestro Ming Luke.
Ming Luke will lead the Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra (BCCO) in three performances of the St. Paul oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn.  Performances will take place at Hertz Hall on the U.C. Berkeley campus on Friday, June 22 (8 pm); Saturday, June 23 (at 3 pm); and Sunday, June 24 (3 pm).
In addition to the full orchestra and symphonic chorus, there are four soloists  – YoonGeong Lee (soprano), Katherine Trimble (mezzo-soprano), Derek Jackenheimer(tenor), and André Chiang (bass).  Each soloist is a winner of the BCCO Vocal Soloist Competition.
The St. Paul oratorio is one of the great masterworks of the choral literature that is not often performed in the United States.  Complex, dramatic, and moving, it is modeled musically on the great Passions by J.S. Bach.  The influence of Bach can be noted, for example, in the excitement of the fugues and in the uplift of the chorales interspersed throughout the work.  
Completed in 1836, the oratorio is a dramatic presentation of the life of the apostle Paul from his active participation in the death of the first Christian martyr, to his own conversion, subsequent active life, and his moving farewell at the start of a journey that will lead to imprisonment and death.  The oratorio was first performed at the Rhine Music Festival in Düsseldorf, Germany, by 536 performers before an audience of over 1000.  Acclaim was immediate, and the score wrapped in a laurel wreath was awarded to Mendelssohn as a tribute.  
The oratorio has 45 parts  The instrumental Overture is based on Bach’s beautiful chorale “Sleepers Awake” (“Wachet auf!”).  Later at number 16 in the score, the entire chorale is sung as a commentary on Paul’s conversion and as an expression of the joyful spiritual surprise that can come to all people.  Throughout the entire piece, recitatives, solo arias, combinations of soloists, and choruses express a spectrum of spiritual feeling — from doubt and anger, to joy and radiant confidence.  The choruses in particular consist of clear yet complex, fluent yet dense counterpoint.  The piece ends in a soaring double fugue. 
The BCCO is dedicated to performing major classical works.  Most recently, the BCCO has performed Britten’s War Requiem, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, seclections from Rachmaninoff’s All-night Vigil, and Prokofieff’s Alexander Nevsky cantata.  The BCCO has performed Dvorak’s Requiem Mass in Prague on its first European tour. 
Maestro Ming Luke joined BCCO as its musical director in 2011, becoming the third music director to lead BCCO since its founding more than 50 years ago.  The Maestro is widely recognized for his innovative music education programs in conjunction with the Berkeley Symphony’s program, Music in the Schools.  He is San Francisco Ballet’s Principal Guest Conductor, the Merced Symphony’s Music Director, and Program Director of the Blackburn Music Academy at Festival Napa Valley.
The philosophy of the BCCO is that there is no person who cannot express himself or herself to the highest musical standards in a chorus.  Accordingly, auditions are not required for membership in the chorus.  The membership is marked by hard work and collegiality which lead to the chorus’ unified resonant timbre and brightness.  Also in line with the BCCO philosophy, all performances are free.  In the past, all performances have been to full houses.