2015 Grand Rapids Symphony Bach Festival Brings Music to Unexpected Places

Media Contact:
Samara Napolitan
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 4

The week of March 15 – 21 ushers in the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, sharing the power of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music in both traditional and unexpected settings. The Bach Festival is presented biannually, inspiring a multitude of community partnerships and unique performances. This 2014-15 Season, the Grand Rapids Symphony is offering 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 Grand Rapids Bach Festival kicks off on Sunday, March 15 with “Bach in Sacred Spaces,” a community-wide event in which area churches will perform the works of Bach during their services. Each performance will feature a Grand Rapids Symphony musician. Participants include 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, March 16 brings two Bach Festival events. The “Cantata Sinfonia Concert” will take place at take place at Calvin Chapel starting at 8:00 p.m. This free concert provides a unique opportunity to discover the church cantatas Bach wrote for solo organ and orchestra. Four highly-skilled West Michigan organists will perform four “concertos” made up of ten sinfonias. Associate Conductor John Varineau will conduct 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, will take place in the eclectic environment of Founder’s Brewing Co. Grand Rapids Symphony violist Leanne King MacDonald will perform everything from Bach’s “G Major Prelude” to contemporary works by Stephen Taylor. The event is free to the public and 30-minute music sets will be offered on the hour from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

“300 years ago, Johann Sebastian Bach created sounds that were ahead of his time. Today the public is fortunate to have these iconic pieces,” said Ms. MacDonald. “I’m pleased to offer up a fresh interpretation of traditional Bach suites and new music for amplified viola and laptop.” 

“Bach and Improvisation” on Tuesday, March 17 invites West Michigan audiences for an evening of all things Bach at the First United Methodist. Music Director David Lockington will lead 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 performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. with tickets starting at $12 and $5 for full time students.

The 2015 Bach Festival will close with Bach’s arguably greatest work, his “B Minor Mass,” on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21. The performances will begin at 8:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. Tickets start at $26, with $15 tickets available for MySymphony360 members and $5 tickets available for students.

Chicken Bach, a philanthropic venture conceived by Matthew Kirvan and Joey Schultz, will have t-shirts and Guatemalan coffee available for purchase at each concert. The proceeds from Chicken Bach sales will benefit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship program.  

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.


Tickets are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available by phone in the evening and on Saturday by calling 616.885.1241. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, 800.982.2787, online at GRSymphony.org or in person at Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the Symphony’s Student Passport program.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director David Lockington, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, ten concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony’s Affiliated Organizations include the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. The Symphony also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please visit GRSymphony.org. 

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.