Founders of The Victoria Bach Ensemble, Michael Drislane (left) and David Barss play Bach at Christmas with their nine-piece group Dec. 21 to support St. John the Divine’s music program.

For the love of Bach

The Victoria Bach Ensemble presents its annual Bach at Christmas show, in support of the Church of St. John the Divine's music program

David Barss works as a charter investment manager and while he loves his job, the former studio musician sometimes dabbles in his original passion on the side: music.

Barss is a co-founder of the Victoria Bach Ensemble, now celebrating its 10th year. Barss and the ensemble, which has seen a steady change of performers each year, are gearing up the annual Bach at Christmas show, a fundraiser for the Church of St. John the Divine’s music program. But in another lifetime, Barss worked with a number of multi-platinum, Grammy-winners. Some of those include musician and producer Daniel Lanois, who produced albums for Bob Dylan and U2; musician and producer Brian Enos who played in the 1970s glam-rock band Roxy Music; and American blues musician, John Lee Hooker. However, he found being a studio musician wasn’t a fulfilling career.

“There is a big difference between doing music because I have to or playing the type of music I love playing,” Barss said, adding he has no regrets with  his career change. “It’s truly a blessing to be in a position where I can do that.”

Learning how to play musical instruments came easily to Barss, who picked up the violin when he was only three. Besides playing classical music, he’s also known to stop by Hermann’s Jazz Club, with either a trumpet or guitar. Moonlighting aside, Bach’s classics remain his passion.

“His music is timeless,” Barss said. “The energy, the musical changes, the chord changes, the sequence, and the bass line (it’s all) amazing.

“The bass progression is like nothing else.”

The Victoria Bach Ensemble’s nine musicians and one soprano will perform Cantata No. 51 Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, Double violin concerto in D minor; Keyboard concerto in A major; Trio sonata in A minor, and Chorale from Cantata No. 140.

Barss, along with co-founder and music director Michael Drislane, invite high calibre musicians to perform with them each year and note the quality of their work is not accurately reflected in the ticket price ($15, $10 for students and seniors).

“We wanted to make it accessible for all income groups,” Barss said. “This is a really good value for a concert at this level, modesty aside.”

Last year, 350 tickets were sold and the venue became standing-room only.

The performers this year include: Eve Daniell, soprano; Blythe Allers; Sharon Stanis and Hannah Burton each playing violin, Ceilidh Briscoe playing viola, Alasdair Money on cello; Drislane on piano and Barss on trumpet.

“Michael (Drislane) is fantastic. He looks and plays like Glenn Gould,” Barss said. “Sharon Stanis is a co-founder of the Lafayette String Quartet and is an artist-in-residence at UVic. She was a concertmaster at the Victoria symphony.”

Barss added the enthusiasm he and Drislane have in putting on the annual show has not changed. Knowing the all money raised is going to a good cause and having a packed house of attendees every year, gives them the drive to continue this event.

The ensemble performs on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30pm at the Church of St. John the Divine (1611 Quadra). Tickets at the door.

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