Enjoy the Music of J.S. Bach and More During the Weeklong 2019 Grand Rapids Bach Festival, March 17-24

PRESS RELEASE— The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is transformative. It has motivated the work of nearly every great composer to follow in the history of Western Classical music. It continues to inspire those who hear it more than 269 years after Bach’s death.

The 12th biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, the first under its new Artistic Director Julian Wachner, returns to West Michigan in March with a week of concerts and activities celebrating the life and work of the composer whose music represents the pinnacle of the Baroque Era.

An affiliate of the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Bach Festival will present the inaugural Linn Maxwell Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award, a $10,000 cash prize in memory of Keller, an accomplished singer who founded the festival in 1997.

Julian Wachner, a keyboardist, conductor, composer and a Grammy-nominated recording artist, serves as Director of Music and the Arts at New York City’s historic Trinity Church Wall Street, and Wachner will bring his 28-voice choir to Grand Rapids during the eight-day festival opening March 17. The Bach Festival Artistic Director chair is sponsored by John & Mary Loeks | Studio C.

“Bach has been a lifelong fascination and passion of mine,” said Wachner, who grew up in a musical family. “I started playing Bach before I could speak.”

At Trinity Church Wall Street, which is just down the street from the World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial, Wachner has been leading performances of the choral and orchestral music of J.S. Bach every week for more than six years.

“I’m really excited about bringing that experience to Grand Rapids,” he said. “There have been incredible artists who have joined the Grand Rapids Bach Festival including pianist Angela Hewitt and the Bach Collegium Japan under the director of Masaki Suzuki.”

“It’s an incredible honor to follow in all of their footsteps in being part of this wonderful festival,” Wachner said.

Besides musical performances, “Bach in the City” will include such activities as BACHBends yoga and KinderBACH for young children and adults. Locally, the Donut Conspiracy and Love’s Ice Cream have created special, limited-time taste treats especially for the 12th biennial festival.

A special $40 Bach Pass, in addition to priority seating at all concerts and entry to two exclusive post-concert receptions, includes discounts at local restaurants including MeXo Restaurant, Littlebird Restaurant, and Linear Restaurant as well as at Apothecary Off Main on Monroe Center.

Several events are free admission or freewill offering thanks to the support of major sponsors including: Prince Conference Center at Calvin College; Daniel L. & Ellen VanderMey; Grand Rapids Community College; and the Cathedral of Saint Andrews.

Mass Reimaginings welcomes The Choir of Trinity Wall Street to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for a twin bill including Bach’s Mass in A Major plus Wachner’s own Epistle Mass, which draws on a thousand years of music from Gregorian chant to contemporary music.

Trinity Church Wall Street, which was founded in 1697, is famous in pop culture for the climactic scenes in the 2004 film National Treasure as well as for the damage it suffered during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, just a few blocks away, in September 2001.

Julian Wachner performs a solo Organ Recital in the Basilica of St. Adalbert, including music by Bach, a virtuoso showpiece by C.M. Widor, and his own Improvisation in Three Movements based on themes suggested by the audience.

The 2019 Grand Rapids Bach Festival welcomes back organist Isabelle Demers for a solo recital at Grace Episcopal Church. The French-Canadian organist appeared here at the 2017 Bach Festival.

The Grand Rapids Symphony percussion section presents MarimBACH, an evening of 18th century music on marimbas and other mallet instruments, in Fountain Street Church.

The festival finale concert, titled Bach Magnificat, includes Bach’s setting of the Magnificat in D Major and his Cantata No. 110, “May Our Mouth Be Full of Laughter.” Four acclaimed vocal soloists join the Grand Rapids Symphony and Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus in the Basilica of St. Adalbert.

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival will be bookended with music by Bach and his contemporaries heard in more than a dozen area churches during Sunday morning services on March 17 and March 24.

The 12th biennial festival will feature the semi-final round and final round of the $10,000 Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award competition to encourage and support gifted, young singers in pursuit of professional careers in music. Six singers originally from as far away as Australia and Japan will perform in the Cathedral of St. Andrew.

Linn Maxwell Keller’s original vision for the festival included not only performances but also educational opportunities, which led to the creation of the $10,000 prize.

The mezzo-soprano originally from Indiana eventually would sing in such Bach Festivals as the Oregon Bach Festival under Helmut Rilling as well as Bach festivals in Carmel and Rochester. But her career received a major boost when she won the “Joy in Singing” Competition in 1976, which included a debut performance in Alice Tully Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“That’s what launched her career,” said her husband, Fred Keller. “It’s the element that gave her the credibility she needed, and she always was very grateful for that opportunity.”

“The idea of having an award named after Linn honors that with the potential to boost another singer’s career,” Keller said. “Our family is thrilled to be able to honor and recognize Linn now and in the future.”

Organized in 1997 as a three-day celebration of the music of Bach, the festival engaged German organist, scholar and conductor Karl Hochreither, a noted authority on Bach’s church music, to serve as music director for several of the early festivals.

Linn Keller died in 2016, but the Grand Rapids Bach Festival she founded lives on.

“It’s established as long as the people of Grand Rapids want this festival,” Keller told The Grand Rapids Press in 2003. “As long as people are blessed by it and enjoy the music, it looks like we’ll be around for a while.”


2019 Grand Rapids Bach Festival Event Schedule

Sunday, March 17

BACH IN SACRED SPACES

Sunday morning

Area Churches

Grand Rapids Symphony musicians

Musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony present the music of J.S. Bach and other composers inspired by Bach in Sunday services in centers of worship throughout the community to comfort and inspire. A jubilant opening to this year’s festival presented free of charge.

  • Tickets for these concerts are FREE

Monday, March 18

BACH FESTIVAL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ORGAN RECITAL

7:30 p.m. Monday

Basilica of St. Adalbert, 654 Davis Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Julian Wachner, organ

JULIAN WACHNER: Fanfare Variations on Mouret’s Rondeau

  • J.S. BACH: Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major (St. Anne)
  • J.S. BACH: Schmücke dich, o Liebe Seele
  • J.S. BACH: Pièce d’Orgue
  • JULIAN WACHNER: Improvisation in Three Movements (based on themes from the audience)
  • J.S. BACH: Doric Toccata and Fugue in D minor
  • MAURICE DURUFLÉ: Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain
  • C.M. WIDOR: Toccata from Symphonie No. 5

During his life, J.S. Bach was little-known as a composer, but he was widely regarded as one of the greatest organ virtuosos of his day. Bach’s music for organ has astonished and mesmerized audiences ever since. Three powerful showpieces, including Charles-Marie Widor’s famous Toccata, will thunder from 3,883 pipes of the Wicks Organ in the Basilica of St. Adalbert. As a bonus, Bach Festival Artistic Director Julian Wachner will improvise at the keyboard based on themes suggested by the audience.   

  • Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students. Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s Bach Pass.

Tuesday, March 19

LINN MAXWELL KELLER DISTINGUISHED BACH MUSICIAN AWARD SEMI-FINAL

2 p.m. Tuesday

Cathedral of St. Andrew, 301 Sheldon Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Vocal Competition Semi-Finalists

Hear the next generation of voices in a FREE concert showcasing the six Keller Award semi-finalists. The $10,000 Linn Maxwell Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award competition aims to encourage and support gifted young singers in pursuit of professional careers in music. During each Festival cycle, one award of $10,000 will be granted, with intention to advance the career and professional developments of the recipient.  

  • Tickets for this concert are FREE

Tuesday, March 19

MARIMBACH

7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Grand Rapids Symphony percussion section

It’s Bach – with a backbeat! In the reverberant, Romanesque splendor of Fountain Street Church, a battery of percussion and percussionists will present MarimBACH – thrilling, percussive pronouncements on the Baroque.  

  • Tickets for this concert are FREE

Wednesday, March 20

ORGAN RECITAL featuring ISABELLE DEMERS

12 p.m. Wednesday

Grace Episcopal Church, 1815 Hall St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Isabelle Demers, organ

“Terrific,” raves the Chicago Tribune of young organ sensation Isabelle Demers, who has attracted a legion of followers. “Her technical and musical dexterity proved that the next generation of organists is well capable of carrying the profession forward,” declared The American Organist. Experience her artistry on Grace Episcopal Church’s three-manual, 40-rank Noack tracker organ.

  • FREE will offering

Wednesday, March 20

BACHBENDS

12 p.m.  Wednesday

St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

7 p.m. Wednesday

First United Methodist Church, 227 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

J.S. Bach’s masterful counterpoint can provide the perfect accompaniment to lead you through such yoga poses as tree, warrior or downward-facing dog. Licensed yoga instructor and WOTV’s wellness expert Michele Fife leads a specially-curated playlist for both restorative and flow-type classes. Don’t just sit and listen when you can listen, feel and move.

  • Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students. Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s Bach Pass.

Thursday, March 21

LINN MAXWELL KELLER DISTINGUISHED BACH MUSICIAN AWARD FINALS

3 p.m. Thursday

Cathedral of St. Andrew 301 Sheldon Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Vocal Competition Finalists

The three finalists of the $10,000 Linn Maxwell Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award competition will perform a FREE recital. Each candidate will perform two contrasting arias by J.S. Bach plus one vocal work by another composer of the singer’s choice.

  • Tickets for this concert are FREE

Thursday, March 21

MASS REIMAGININGS

7 p.m. Thursday

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 134 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Julian Wachner, conductor

Daniel Taylor, countertenor

Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

The Choir of Trinity Wall Street

BACH: Mass in A Major            

  • WACHNER: Epistle Mass

From the famous Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street will travel to Grand Rapids to perform Bach’s Mass in A for choir, flute, strings and basso continuo, and Julian Wachner’s own Epistle Mass, which draws upon 1,000 years of musical influences from Gregorian Chant to contemporary times. Enjoy the music in historic St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the oldest existing public building in Grand Rapids, dating from 1848.

  • Tickets are $15 adults, $5 students. Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s Bach Pass.

Friday, March 22

NOONTIME BACH

12 noon Friday

First United Methodist Church, 227 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Julian Wachner, conductor

Molly Netter, soprano

Daniel Taylor, countertenor

Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

  • BACH: Cantata No. 82, Ich habe genug (I am content)
  • BACH: Cantata No. 170, Vergnugte Ruh, Beliebte Seelenlust (Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul)
  • BACH: Cantata No. 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (Exult in God in every land)

Bach composed more than 200 cantatas. This aching, exquisite trio of cantatas can be counted among his most personal. The radiant Cantata No. 170 surveys the world and begs for release. Cantata No. 51 is a sterling duet for soprano and trumpet.  And, in “Ich habe genung,” as the solo tenor’s flesh weakens, his spirit soars. His weary words are frequently punctuated by pauses, and in those long pauses is heard the most poignant music of all. The truths found in Bach’s music will reveal themselves in the Tiffany windowed First United Methodist Church.        

  • Tickets are $5. Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s Bach Pass.

Saturday, March 23

KINDERBACH

11 a.m. Saturday

Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory at GRCC, 200 Lyon St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Join us for an opportunity to play with your little one in an hour-long interactive KinderBach class. Inspired by Anna Harwell Celenza’s book, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the session will be led by a Grand Rapids Symphony musician and a dancer from Grand Rapids Ballet.

  • $10 adult plus one child (age 5 and under). Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s Bach Pass.

Saturday, March 23

BACH MAGNIFICAT

7:30 p.m. Saturday

Basilica of St. Adalbert, 654 Davis Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Julian Wachner, conductor

Molly Netter, soprano

Daniel Taylor, countertenor

Brian Giebler, tenor

Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Pearl Shangkuan, director

  • BACH: Cantata No. 110, Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (May our mouth be full of laughter)
  • BACH/STRAVINSKY: Variations on Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come)
  • BACH: Magnificat in D Major

“Awaken, and sing songs of joy
that are pleasing and prepare such praise
as delights heart and spirit…”

Music for the season as well as music for all seasons. Bach’s Magnificat, his first liturgical composition with a text in Latin, soars and sings, inspiring choirs and listeners for nearly three centuries. Cantata No. 110 radiates joy for the coming of man with alternating biblical texts and arias.  And Martin Luther’s own hymn is rejuvenated centuries later by Igor Stravinsky. The Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus joins soloists and orchestra for the performance in the sonic splendor of the Basilica of St. Adalbert. 

  • Tickets are $26 adults, $5 children. Free with the 2019 GR Bach Festival’s BachPass.

Sunday, March 24

BACH IN SACRED SPACES

Sunday

Area Churches

Grand Rapids Symphony Musicians

In the spirit of Bach’s evergreen renewal of the soul, the festival concludes as it began as musicians from the Symphony again perform in Grand Rapids churches.  All events are FREE, and bring the festival to a glorious conclusion – until 2021!

  • Tickets for these concerts are FREE

Bach Pass

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival’s Bach Pass, which admits holders to all ticketed concerts and provides preferred seating at free events, is available for $40 adults, $20 children. Order online.

The Bach Pass offers:

 


 

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