For music lovers, a trip to serene Abu Ghosh for the Vocal Music Festival is a genuine pleasure. There, in a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the traditional festival takes place between May 25-27, with a roster of local and international artists offering a wide variety of programs.

Among the visiting artists, the Vokalquintett Berlin sounds promising, while the virtuoso Tbilisi Ensemble is a must, considering Georgia’s long tradition of male choruses.

Not long ago, Israeli soprano Yeela Avital and harpsichordist Yizhar Karshon, her colleague from the Baroccada orchestra, founded the Baroccada Singers vocal ensemble to perform the kind of repertoire they both like: 17th-century madrigals by Monteverdi and Gesualdo.

“These pieces are rarely performed in Israel and demand a lot of work,” says Avital. “You need to find relevant vocalists and to create a very specific sound. That takes time.

We’ve been working together for about six months, and I am glad we are given the chance to present our ensemble at Abu Ghosh. And although this time we are not performing Italian madrigals but rather an entirely Bach program, it is still the same ensemble.”

Avital says that the program also includes rarely performed pieces: “For example, Bach’s motets, written for eight voices, or his Cantata #4, which we will perform as a vocal quartet. I love ensemble singing,” she says.

What is so special about a Baroque repertoire? “There is a special charm about the Italian Baroque repertoire, together with a strong sense of a new beginning. The composers of that time were true revolutionaries because they wanted to give musical expression to every word of the text. The combination of voices is amazing, and it’s a sheer pleasure to be a part of it. As for the current concert’s program, we choose it with the help of Hanna Zur, the artistic director of the festival. I would say that these are the most touching and romantic pieces by Bach.”

Among other participants in the Johann Sebastian Bach – Eternal Beauty concert are sopranos Shimrit Tziporen and Ella Wilhelm, alto Avital Deri, tenors Doron Florentin and Eliav Lavi, basses Yoel Sivan and Oded Reich, as well as the Baroccada Orchestra with Yizhar Karshon at the harpsichord.

Other programs feature Bach’s Magnificat, performed by the Ra;anana Symphonette under Stenly Sperber, together with choir and soloists; duets and arias by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov; vocal pieces by Rachmaninov and Bolohov; as well as Russian folk songs performed by Israeli Opera soloists Anastasia Kelavan and Svetlana Sandler, accompanied by Lena Gershuni on the piano; Mozart’s Requiem, together with short a cappella choir masterpieces “Ave Verum” by Saint-Saëns, “Ave Maris Stella” by Grieg; and Mendelssohn’s “Ave Maria,” performed by soloists, the Tel Aviv Chamber Choir and the Ra’anana Symphonette under Michael Shani..

The Johann Sebastian Bach – Eternal Beauty concert takes place on May 26 at 11:30 a.m. at the Kiryat Ye’arim Church, which has excellent acoustics. For more details and reservations for the festival, go to www.agfestival.co.il

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