The Bach Festival is presented biannually, inspiring a multitude of community partnerships and unique performances. Throughout the festival, the Grand Rapids Symphony offers several inspirational events, encouraging patrons to create their own personal dialogue with the music of Bach, the hardworking church musician, talented organist and one of the most influential composers to ever live.
The Bach Festival was first organized in 1997 by mezzo-soprano Linn Maxwell Keller. The one-time event became a biennial community-wide Bach Festival in 2007 with Karl Hochreither, director of the prestigious Bach Choir of Berlin, as its music director. The ninth Grand Rapids Bach Festival presented a weeklong collection of performances in April 2013 with the Grand Rapids Symphony as its leading community partner. Over 20 free and ticketed concerts were performed in traditional, sacred and secular settings across the city.
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2015 Bach Festival
The Grand Rapids Bach Festival kicked off on Sunday, March 15 with “Bach in Sacred Spaces,” a community-wide event in which area churches performed the works of Bach during their services, each performance featuring a Grand Rapids Symphony musician. Participants included Basilica of St. Adalbert, Church of the Servant, First Park Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church, Fountain Street Church, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Mayflower Congregational Church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Second Congregational United Church of Christ, Trinity Lutheran Church, Trinity United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Monday, May 16 presented to Bach Festival events. The “Cantata Sinfonia Concert” took place at Calvin Chapel starting at 8:00 p.m. This free concert provided a unique opportunity to discover the church cantatas Bach wrote for solo organ and orchestra. Four highly-skilled West Michigan organists performed four “concertos” made up of ten sinfonias. Associate Conductor John Varineau conducted the event, sponsored by the Calvin Association for Lifelong Learning and the American Guild of Organists (West Michigan), in partnership with the Bach Chorale.
“Bach and Brews,” a collaboration featuring modern twists on Bach’s iconic works, took place in the eclectic environment of Founder’s Brewing Co. Grand Rapids Symphony violist Leanne King MacDonald performed everything from Bach’s “G Major Prelude” to contemporary works by Stephen Taylor.
“Bach and Improvisation” on Tuesday, March 17 invited West Michigan audiences for an evening of all things Bach at the First United Methodist church. Music Director David Lockington led the Grand Rapids Symphony orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus vocalists Amanda Hall, Deborah Domanski, Michael Maniaci, Zackery Wilder and Stephan Bryant as well as harpsichord player David Schrader in a performance of solo and orchestral works written by Bach and his contemporaries.
The 2015 Bach Festival closed with Bach’s arguably greatest work, his “B Minor Mass,” on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.
Chicken Bach, a philanthropic venture conceived by Matthew Kirvan and Joey Schultz, offered t-shirts and Guatemalan coffee for purchase at each concert. The proceeds from Chicken Bach sales benefited the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship program.