Arts & Entertainment

Sax man rallies for Mastersingers concert

Barry Bergstrom has been plagued with a score of illnesses lately, but that's not going to stop the sax man from performing with the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers this weekend.

Bergstrom is the featured soloist for the concert, titled Son of God Mass, which will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at St. Joseph's Chapel in Kennewick and at 3 p.m. Feb. 6 in the commons areas at Hanford High School in Richland.

Though kidney and hernia ailments have laid him low for more than a year, with more surgery to come later this month, he says he's regained enough strength to perform.

"The left kidney still hurts occasionally," Bergstrom said. "But I just have to deal with the pain because I really don't want to miss performing with the Mastersingers."

He'll play three pieces of sacred music with the choral group, which will be under the direction of Justin Raffa, but it's the Son of God Mass piece in particular that Bergstrom is looking forward to tackling.

"Each piece I'm playing has its own difficulties and simplicities," he said. "But the featured piece, Son of God Mass, is the most interesting and the most difficult.

"It's interesting because it contains some short sections of improvisation, which are right up my alley, as I'm always most proud of being an improvising musician. But the real challenge will be control, (meaning) I have complete control over the instrument."

Raffa said Son of God Mass is a work for choir, organ and soprano sax that was written by British composer James Whitbourn. It's a simple and powerful work that intertwines traditional classical mass style with meditative passages where the saxophone dominates, he said.

Bergstrom has been a musician for more than 30 years, playing professionally with the Harry James Orchestra as well as gigs in the Tri-Cities, his hometown.

He describes the music in the upcoming concert as sounding like a traditional Catholic mass, but "other times I hear the spirituals of mid-'60s John Coltrane."

"And I swear sometimes I hear hints of Plains Indian chanting," Bergstrom said. "I'm thrilled to be a part of something so new and exciting."

Tickets are $20 adults, $15 for seniors and college students. Students in grades K-12 are free to Mastersingers concerts. Tickets are available at www.midcolumbiamastersingers.org, or call 509-460-1766.

The concert also will be performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 at the First Presbyterian Church in Pendleton.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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