Emmanuel Music is dedicated to enriching the life of the community through the transformative power of music. Expanding on a 48-year tradition of presenting weekly Bach cantatas in a liturgical setting, we perform concert repertoire from baroque to contemporary in large and small ensembles, inviting audiences to explore and discover familiar and unfamiliar masterworks. The commitment and discipline of performing together more than 50 times a year nurtures a core of established and emerging musicians and fosters unparalleled artistic excellence. In our outreach we are committed to training the next generation of musicians, mentoring young students, and inspiring broad audiences in free concerts, lectures, and master classes.
In 1970 Craig Smith founded Emmanuel Music to perform the complete cycle of sacred cantatas by J.S. Bach in the liturgical setting for which they were intended. The entire cycle of more than 200 cantatas has been performed twice, and the tradition continues today. These weekly cantata performances have created a close-knit and artistically excellent ensemble of vocal and instrumental musicians.
Craig Smith believed in developing the careers of promising young musicians. As he put it, “In creating a nurturing environment for artistic development, Emmanuel Music has always crossed generational lines, with young musicians rubbing shoulders in rehearsal and performance with more experienced players and singers. Over the years, we realized that the works of Bach in particular are the best training for the musician's technique and soul.” Smith had a good eye for talent and gave musicians opportunities to develop their skills. As a result, many Emmanuel musicians have become among Boston’s best, sought after by other local ensembles. Several, including Sanford Sylvan, James Maddalena, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, became renowned at the national and international level.
Beyond providing occasions for musicians to perform both as ensemble players and soloists, the weekly cantatas create special opportunities for musical exploration. In Smith’s words, “The sheer number of performances of Bach, Mozart, Handel, Schütz, and others by our small core group of performers has made for our unusual unanimity of viewpoint and synergetic rapport. This group of musicians, who have been together for so long, has created an ‘Emmanuel style’ that is recognizably different from the usual sight-reading of the music. Our musicians are in this journey with me: they are giving us the results of their exploration and wrestling with this often difficult material. In the world of classical music, many of the concerts we hear are familiar works rehashed. By the very nature of our projects, that does not and will not happen here. Every Emmanuel performer's life is enriched by the exploration of music this great. Every audience member is in turn changed by this exploration of the literature.”