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Published on July 25th, 2020 | by TLV News


Dr. Jos Milton Sings in Operation Bach

Operation Bach is an outgrowth of friendships formed among musicians at the Carmel Bach Festival; faced with the inevitable cancellation of the 2020 festival due to Covid-19, they worked together to celebrate Bach chorales with a series of videos that they’re posting July 18-August 1. The music was recorded remotely by musicians around the globe to share music and honor the Festival, which would have taken place on those dates. University of Mississippi Associate Professor of Music Dr. Jos Milton, a member of our vocal faculty and part of the Festival’s professional chorale since 2014, participated in the project as a tenor.

“The 14 days of posts include the 12 chorales from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, framed by chorales from 2 other works,” said Dr. Milton. “The chorales are short, and are based on Lutheran hymns that 18th century audiences would have already known – in fact, many of these tunes are still well-known today. Bach’s genius is in how he creates harmonizing layers that reflect the intention of the text.”

Dr. Milton, right, with the other tenors of the Festival Chorale, in the summer of 2019: (l to r) David Vanderwal, Stephen Sands (the other tenor in Operation Bach besides Milton), Tim Hodges, Scott Mello, and Milton.

“The melody is asserted in the soprano voice,” said Milton, “then Bach’s harmonies give each line dramatic effect to tell the story of the Passion.”The Carmel Bach Festival was founded in 1935 to create beauty in the midst of the Great Depression, said David Gordon, who recently retired from the Festival after 30 years as a soloist and staffer, and who narrates some of the Operation Bach videos, “and in 2020, in the midst of the Great Pandemic, 18 friends have done the same thing” by creating Operation Bach. “A true expression of joy and community, right from the heart,” he added.

This is Milton’s seventh year to be a member of the Carmel Bach Festival Chorale. “Getting to sing with the same people each year,” he said, “builds tremendous camaraderie within the group, and also helps get our sound to a high level of artistry.”

Jeff Fields has been singing baritone with the Festival since 1998 and collaborated with Gordon and others to create Operation Bach. He said including Jos was a no-brainer.

“He had a prominent solo during last summer’s Festival that brought many of us to tears; a simple Irish tune that Jos sang with moving directness and warmth. His amiable manner and gorgeous voice have made him a huge asset to the Festival and a wonderful colleague,” he said, “so I thought of Jos immediately when I was asked to recruit some singers for this project, Operation Bach.”

Dr. Jos Milton with his family during the 2019 Carmel Bach Festival: Ashley Moss and their son, Henry.

Gordon agreed. “The Carmel Bach Festival Chorale,” he said, is “one of the finest professional choral groups in the nation, and membership is highly competitive. Jos Milton is a distinguished vocal artist. I’ve enjoyed him in concert and in solo recitals, and the Carmel Bach Festival is lucky to have him in its performing ensemble.”

Adding to the interest of this project is how it was edited together for a specific effect. After each musician recorded his or her part, the editor worked with Braxton Boren, a professor of audio technology at American University, who developed an acoustical rendering of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig where Bach was concertmaster.

“Individual instruments and voices can be placed in arbitrary positions throughout the church and rendered into a coherent whole,” explained Fields. This means that someone listening to Operation Bach’s videos today will hear the music in the same way a parishioner in the pews during Bach’s time would have heard it in 1723.

The chorale videos can be found at and on YouTube, and by searching for “Operation Bach” on social media platforms.
Find the full story here, and additional coverage here.

Music Department participated in two virtual Preview Weeks for prospective students.

UM’s Preview Weeks typically give prospective students and parents a chance to learn about UM and specific programs and departments. This year, of course, it was all online.

UM Music presented interactive Preview Week sessions in which participants got to talk with the chair, ensemble directors, and current students, with plenty of opportunity for questions.

Interim Chair Prof. Nancy Maria Balach said the sessions were wonderful. “It’s always exciting to talk with prospective students and their families about our department and our great people, and how we help our students grow as musicians.”This year’s Preview Weeks may be over, but UM Music is always eager to connect with prospective students and families.

Questions are always welcome at

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Acclaimed Author Kiese Laymon Named to McAlexander Chair

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The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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