Conductor Maurice Allard would like to roll the clock back to 1705.
That's the year that 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach was said to have walked 200 miles from Arnstadt to the northern German city of Luebeck to hear music by the great composer and organist Dietrich Buxtehude--although the unsentimental New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, generally considered the last word on musical matters, casts some doubt on the story.
Buxtehude had greatly expanded the scope of a series of concerts long held at the Marienkirche. Known as Abendmusik --evening musical performances--these programs combined liturgical services with sacred music.
In fact, these programs proved so popular that they endured until 1810.
It is these Abendmusik programs that Allard and the Master Chorale of Orange County want to evoke at 8:15 tonight at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
"Buxtehude was an inspiration for a lot of (Bach's) music and the drama in his music," Allard said. "One idea he got was a vesper service of special music. . . . The combination of service and concert used to go on for hours."
The modern-day experience won't be such a marathon. Allard's church services will last about 22 minutes, and the concert will run about 55 minutes.
He said the church service will allow members of the audience to participate in the singing of several hymns. Interwoven into the service will be Buxtehude's Magnificat.
The combined liturgical-musical program was initiated by the chorale under another name.
"We've called it a Lutheran service for the past two years," Allard said, "but this year we decided to go with the title (Buxtehude) used in his time.
"In our case, the concert will be a potpourri of music, a balance of instrumental and vocal music."
Vocal works will include Buxtehude's "My Jesus Is My Lasting Joy" for women's voices and Bach's Motet No. 2, "Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf," Gloria from the Mass in B minor and portions of the "Lutheran" Mass in G minor.
Ann Henley, assistant conductor for the chorale, will lead the Buxtehude chorus. The selections from the G-minor Mass will be conducted by Stan Hill, the chorale's production coordinator.
Instrumental works will include Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and the first movement of the Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. Sandy McCune will play the prominent harpsichord part in the Brandenburg concerto. Soloists in the duo violin concerto will be Jacqueline Brand and Akiro Endo.
Additionally, organist Frederick Swann will play Buxtehude's Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp minor and Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C.
"Unfortunately, we will not have trumpets for the 'Gloria' in the B-minor," Allard said. "There are not enough dollars in our budget. So we will use trumpet stops (on the organ), which is done quite frequently."
The size of the orchestra--18 members, made up of 18 string, flute and oboe players--will approximate the size of the forces that Bach might have used. But the chorale, at 120 singers strong, will far outnumber anything Bach dreamed of.
"Since Bach's 'Der Geist' is a double motet," Allard said, "we'll divide the chorale into two groups of 60 singers. But the whole chorale will sing everything on the program."
Allard regards these programs as "very special events.
"They give people an opportunity to worship and to hear worshipful music," he said. "I think everything Bach does is worshipful. I like that combination and am glad we can do it in a church as beautiful as the (Crystal) Cathedral."