About the Bach Cantata Choir

The Bach Cantata Choir's mission is to sing the entire set of cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach over a period of 30 years (view cantatas performed to date). We are a choir of about 50 members plus an orchestra of between 8 to 15 members depending upon the concert.

We perform approximately five concerts each year – two or three cantatas per concert.  Most concerts are on Sunday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. and all concerts are held at the Rose City Park Presbyterian Church at 1907 NE 45th Avenue in Portland, Oregon (map). Concerts are free (free-will offering accepted) unless advertised otherwise.

The Bach Cantata Choir is a legally organized non-profit corporation under Oregon law, and is a registered 501(c)(3) corporation with the IRS. Donations to the choir are fully deductible for income-tax purposes


Ralph Nelson, Artistic Director

Composer/conductor Ralph Nelson is in demand as an Artist-in-Residence throughout the Portland area. A graduate of Amherst College and subsequently a composition and conducting student of Nadia Boulanger in France, Nelson has served in many capacities since moving to Portland, Oregon over 25 years ago. For 22 years, he was a member of the administrative staff of the Oregon Symphony, and then became Executive Director of the Portland Symphonic Choir. During the summer of 2008, Ralph studied conducting with Helmuth Rilling, Tom Davies and Tim Sawyer at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene.

In addition to composing and teaching, Ralph is Choir Director at First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland and Director of the Holladay Park Plaza Singers. 

Both Ralph and his wife Susan sing with the Portland Symphonic Choir. In the summer, Ralph sings with Mastersingers USA, an all-male group under the direction of former Amherst College Professor Bruce McInnes.



Membership in the choir is by audition only. For an audition, you will be requested to do the following:
1) Prepare an aria from Handel's Messiah or a Bach cantata (or other Baroque work). Please be careful in selecting an aria – especially make sure it fits your vocal range. Please bring an extra copy of the music to the audition for the accompanist.
2) Sight-sing your part from a selected Bach Chorale.
3) Prepare your voice part to the "Cum Sancto Spiritu" fugue from the Bach Mass in B Minor (mm. 37-63), with accompaniment. All sopranos should sing Soprano 1. Those wishing to be considered for Soprano 2 should perform that part also. You will be e-mailed a copy of this.
4) Read aloud the following German text: Zwar ist solche Herzensstube wohl kein schöner Fürstensaal, sondern eine finstre Grube; doch sobald dein Gnadenstrahl in dieselbe nur wird blinken, wird sie voller Sonnen dünken.
5) General vocalization.
Auditions are available for select openings on an appointment basis only. Auditions are typically 15 minutes long, and involve singing in front of the Artistic Director and some of the section leaders.  Prospective candidates should email their interest to info@bachcantatachoir.org.