PEORIA — Though John Jost retired last spring after 29 years as the choir director at Bradley University, he is still bringing beautiful music to central Illinois.
A founder of Peoria’s Bach Fest, Jost is still hosting that annual event and now he’s created a whole new group called Lumière which will be performing at 6 p.m. March 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Moss Avenue.
“I woke up one morning this summer with this idea of trying to put together a small group of some of the best voices in the area,” said Jost. “Some of them have families and can’t make a commitment to meet every week, but if I could get a group of really good musicians who can learn music really quickly, we can do it in fewer rehearsals.”
Jost reached out to 16 singers and every single one of them said yes.
“Of the 16, probably half were members of the Bradley Chorale at one time or another, and the others have all been singing in the Bach Festival Choir for at least three years, some longer,” said Jost.
The concert will feature hymns, spirituals and psalm settings, composed from as long ago as the 1500s to present day. About 14 works will be performed, many of them without accompaniment.
“Four pieces have organ, and a couple have a string trio — two violins and a cello,” said Jost.
He chose pieces not often played in central Illinois. They include Herbert Howells' “Like as the Hart Desireth the Waterbrooks,” a setting of Psalm 42.
“It’s one of the most beautiful pieces I know,” said Jost. “It was written in 1943 in England, I imagine at the time London was being bombed. The composer’s 9-year-old son had died of polio some time before that, and he was very affected by that. It seems to be the inspiration for a number of his really deeply felt pieces.”
Also on the program is a contemporary piece by Jeffrey Ames called “I’ve Been So Long in the Storm.”
“He wrote this as a reflection on the floods during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, then we are following that with a gospel tune called 'Unclouded Day,' which is a very 'up' kind of happy contrast to 'I’ve Been So Long in the Storm.'”
The group will also be performing an original composition by Jost.
“It’s a piece that I composed when I was in high school. I thought it would be fun to throw that on the program,” he said. “It’s a setting to Psalm 95. It’s less than three minutes long, but my high school choir couldn’t sing it, it was too difficult. The first time I heard it sung was with the Bradley Chorale.”
Jost chose psalm settings for the first concert of Lumière because of the great variety the genre offers.
“Some are sad, some are joyful — there are just a whole range of moods in the text,” he said. “Plus composers have been setting these texts to music for centuries. I think it will be a very enjoyable concert.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.