As plans are finalized for an all-Bach concert on Friday, January 23, at Richardson Auditorium to benefit Centurion Ministries, sponsor William H. Scheide looks back on a very full year. Bach scholar, humanitarian, philanthropist, and rare book collector, Scheide is celebrating his 95th birthday this month by sponsoring this Bach concert. “At the age of 95, I feel a sense of urgency to expand the base of support for important causes such as Centurion Ministries, whose mission is to free the unjustly imprisoned,” says Scheide.

This is the fourth special event Scheide has sponsored in a year. “Not only do the concerts bring beautiful music to the public, they shine a bright light on outstanding performers and causes of justice,” he says.

Based in Princeton, Centurion Ministries will receive all proceeds from the concert as well as exposure to potential funders the concert brings, Scheide says. This non-profit organization has freed 43 wrongly convicted people, more than a dozen of whom will attend the concert. See story page TK.

“Sponsoring concerts enables us to showcase people and causes deserving of the public’s attention and support,” says Scheide, who has been committed to compassionate philanthropy throughout his life. He has provided philanthropic support to Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary and Westminster Choir College for decades and has played a crucial part in advancing the goals of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, among other causes.

Mark Laycock, who directed the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, will conduct the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, an internationally acclaimed ensemble that has been a major force in 18th and 19th century music. The orchestra, which has recorded the complete vocal and instrumental works of Bach, will perform Ouverture No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 and support the evening’s instrumental and vocal soloists in concerti and aria selections.

Featured soloists include Mariam Nazarian, a pianist and protege of Scheide, who made her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 16 when she performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations. She will play the Keyboard Concerto in D minor at the concert.

Bringing leading European and North American artists together for the special performance, the concert will also feature violin soloist Kristof Barati performing Sinfonia in D Major. Several outstanding American vocalists including Layla Claire, soprano; Emily Langford Johnson, mezzo-soprano; Scott Ramsay, tenor, and Daniel Mobbs, baritone, will perform courtesy of Opera NJ.

This is the first all-Bach concert being sponsored by Scheide since his three decades directing the Bach Aria Group, ending in 1980. He founded the group in 1946 with a goal of creating an audience for the arias, a vocal genre based on a lyric or poetic narrative and written for soloists, chorus, and instrumentalists, because he felt they were virtually unknown, even among the music-loving public.

“Everyone knows Bach’s B Minor Mass and the Brandenburg concerti. But in the cantatas, there is another huge body of music as beautiful as anything you could ever hear,” says Scheide, who endowed a professorship of music history at Princeton University, his alma mater, among other gifts.

Scheide supported the Bach Aria Group financially, set its style, and toured with it wherever it went — for three decades. The group performed arias and duets from Bach’s more than 200 cantatas as well as the complete cantatas, and the group enjoyed international acclaim for its concerts, broadcasts, and recordings.

The January 23 concert features many works that were in the Bach Aria Group’s original repertoire, according to Scheide’s wife, Judith. “Recently Bill and I have been listening to the recordings of his original Bach Aria group. In planning the concert, we selected several that Bill arranged in the 1940s and 1950s. We picked our favorites, but of course, all of the pieces are exquisite,” she says.

To Scheide, the arias offer unparalleled opportunities to feature vocal and instrumental solos. “One of the striking things about Bach’s arias is the unequaled opportunities for artistic expression they give to so many kinds of musical performers,” he says. “Genuine solo parts for vocal and instrumental performers challenge comparison with any other solo music.”

The all-Bach concert marks the fourth time the Scheides have brought classical music concerts to the Princeton area. For each concert, the Scheides have underwritten production costs and offered free or reduced cost admission for students or the public. For two of the concerts, they also donated proceeds to non-profit organizations including Isles, the community-based sustainable development group in Trenton and the Princeton University Preparatory Program for high achieving, low income young people. The Scheides also supported the Princeton University Summer Concert Series, sponsoring a free concert in July.

For all the concerts, the Scheides arranged for Mark Laycock to serve as conductor. Laycock made his conducting debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 21 and later conducted the Princeton Symphony. He has appeared with orchestras of London, Paris, Prague, Moscow, Kiev, Montreal, Mexico City, Seoul and Taipei, and is currently based in Berlin, Germany.

All-Bach Concert, Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus. Friday, January 23, 8 p.m. Featuring the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart and special guest artists in an all-Bach program conducted by Mark Laycock. Proceeds benefit Centurion Ministries. $35 general admission; $25 students. Tickets are available at the 100 level of the Frist Campus Center or by calling 609-258-9220 or visiting www.princeton.edu/utickets. For more information about the concert, visit www.scheideconcerts.com.

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