A Beginner’s Guide to Bach Fest


Colin Henley

Spring is in the air, and soon, so will be the music of brass choirs from atop the Marting Hall Tower: from Friday, April 7th to Saturday, April 8th, the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music will celebrate the legacy of one of the world’s most beloved composers with its 85th annual Bach Festival.

Johann Sebastian Bach, who lived from 1685 to 1750, is one of the most revered and influential figures in music history. The German composer and instrumentalist was a master of the Baroque counterpoint style, a complex type of composition in which multiple independent musical lines are played simultaneously, interacting to form harmonies.

Bach wrote hundreds of sacred Lutheran pieces as well as instrumental works; over a thousand of his compositions survive today. He composed his works during his various employments as a church musician and court composer.

“He’s not primarily working to produce music to sell or to innovate, but rather for churches and for courts: he’s writing music for functions and manages to be really artistic and incredible,” said Dr. Danielle Kuntz, visiting assistant professor of music.

The BW Bach Festival, established in 1932 by conservatory founder Albert Riemenschneider and his wife, Selma, is the oldest collegiate Bach festival in the country. Typically, the festival is centered around a performance of one of Bach’s four major choral works, but this year’s festival breaks with tradition by instead performing Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem on the Saturday night concert.

“The question, I think, of this year’s Bach Fest is really about how Bach’s music is perpetuated through subsequent composers…particularly through significant figures like Brahms,” said Dr. Kuntz. “His requiem is one of the greatest examples we have of this kind of connection.”

For anyone seeking to learn more about Bach and his influence on Brahms, the Riemenschneider Bach Institute, located on the first floor of the Boesel Musical Arts Center, will have an open house Friday from 12:00 to 2:30 pm and Saturday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Rare items from the RBI will be on display, and students of Dr. Kuntz will present an exhibit highlighting connections between the legacy of Bach and the Brahms requiem.

There are a number of other events dedicated to the work of Bach. BW’s Festival Brass will perform from the Marting Hall Tower Friday and Saturday at 2:15 pm and 6:15 pm; BW’s Motet Choir and conservatory faculty members as well as internationally acclaimed guest artists will also perform various concerts throughout the weekend. Guest lecturers also will present on both days.

To add to the festivities, food trucks will be on Seminary Street on Friday evening during the Festival Brass performance, and there will be a 5K run/1 mile walk on Saturday morning.