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Bach at the Sem New Conductor Builds on Legacy

The 2014-2015 season of Bach at the Sem is the first conducted under the baton of new music director, Dr. Maurice Boyer, only the second full-time director of Concordia Seminary’s acclaimed concert series. Boyer’s leadership builds on the rich history of choral music at the Seminary and the dedicated musicians specializing in the heritage of Lutheran choral and liturgical music who bring major works of the Renaissance and Baroque periods to the local community.

Musical Ancestry of Bach at the Sem
It started in 1955 with the formation of the Concordia Cantata Chorus—founded and directed by recent Seminary graduate Robert Bergt. The ensemble quickly gained national and international acclaim for the quality of its performances, and invitations to perform soon flooded in from organizations across the U.S..

Dr. Maurice Boyer conducts the American Kantorei at the March 15, 2015 Bach at the Sem concert.
Dr. Maurice Boyer conducts the American Kantorei at the March 15, 2015 Bach at the Sem concert.

In 1966, the Concordia Cantata Chorus sang at the International Heinrich Schütz Festival in Holland. In connection with this festival, the chorus also performed in England and Germany. Recordings from the Dutch festival reached across northern Europe all the way to South Africa.

The American Kantorei
In 1969, Bergt, now an associate professor at Concordia Seminary, founded the American Kantorei as successor to the Cantata Chorus. This group of professional musicians and vocalists, as well as seminarians and voice students from the St. Louis area, provided an immersive educational experience, steeped in liturgical music.

There was a hiatus while Bergt went on to teach and conduct at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; Valparaiso University; and the Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo. However, beginning in 1991, the Seminary invited classical music fans back to campus for a series of organ recitals featuring selections by J.S. Bach performed by renowned concert organist Martin Jean. The performances were underwritten by Richard and Phyllis Deusenberg.

In 1993, while still serving at the Tokyo conservatory, Bergt reconstituted the American Kantorei upon the encouragement and with the support of the Duesenbergs and their brother Robert and sister-in-law Lori Duesenberg—all longtime friends of the director and the Seminary. The first concerts were scheduled around Bergt’s leaves from the conservatory in Tokyo. Dr. Jeral Becker, a member of the Kantorei from its beginning, assisted Bergt and serves as assistant conductor to this day.

The Legacy Takes Form
Shortly after the American Kantorei was brought together again, the Bach at the Sem concerts debuted. In 1995, Bergt returned to Concordia Seminary permanently and served as artist-in-residence, focusing his efforts on the popular concerts and related educational events until his death in 2011. During the two seasons following Bergt’s death, Bach at the Sem continued, thanks to the work of many gifted guest conductors, including Boyer, while a search was conducted for a full-time music director. In the fall of 2014, Boyer, an associate professor of music at Concordia University Chicago, was hired. Boyer also remains on the faculty at Concordia, Chicago and conducts theuniversity’s chamber orchestra and teachesall levels of ear training. He also directs or conducts other local music groups.

Boyer’s touch with Bach at the Sem is evident in the significance of the programming throughout his inaugural season. His passion for and understandingof Bach’s works are infectious, and the community’s continuing support for Bach at the Sem is clear, as evidenced by increasing attendance.

Bach at the Sem concerts, performed in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the grounds of Concordia Seminary, are free and open to the public. For more information, or to make a gift in support of the concert series, visit