A black and white image of a man in a light-coloured shirt conducting a choir.
AURA Chamber Choir and conductor Imant Raminsh at All Saint’s Anglican Church in 1992.

A historic performance

On April 6 and 7, 2024, the AURA Chamber Choir will present Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passion According to St. John in Salmon Arm and Vernon, respectively. The occasion commemorates both the choir’s 45th Anniversary, and exactly 300 years since the Passion was first performed.

Between 1723 and 1724, German composed Bach, in his first year as director of church music in Leipzig, completed the piece. On April 7, 1724, it was performed for the first time at a Good Friday Vespers service at St. Nicholas Church. At the age of 39, Bach composed the four-part piece featuring soloists and an instrumental ensemble comprising strings, bass instruments, flutes, and oboes. Notably, he added color to the music by incorporating the lute, viola, and viol, instruments that were considered antiquated even in Bach’s time.

In the years following, Bach revised the piece multiple times, alongside creating new compositions, including the Passion According to St. Michael in 1929. Bach passed away in 1750 at the age of 65. Nevertheless, his reputation as one of the greatest composers remains well-founded, especially considering his works continues to be performed three centuries later.

45 years of aura

Composer J. S. Back in 1746. Public Domain image.

Established in 1979 by Imant Raminsh and Valerie Witham, with accompanist Marjorie Close, the AURA Chamber Choir brings together singers from the Okanagan and Shuswap regions. Their diverse repertoire spans from the Renaissance to contemporary compositions of the twenty-first century, encompassing motets, choral art songs, folk melodies, and spiritual pieces.

Additionally, the choir has showcased compositions by Raminsh, who held the position of the choir’s director for many years. Raminsh, of Latvian descent, is a globally acclaimed composer based in Vernon. In recognition of his significant contributions to the Canadian music scene, he was honored with the appointment to the Order of Canada in 2018.

Now in its 45th year, AURA is one of several choral ensembles in the Okanagan Valley, with other groups including the Okanagan Festival Singers, the Musaic Vocal Ensemble, and the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra Chorus. For further information about AURA, please click here


To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives