First Charlotte Bach Festival A Success

Jun 27, 2018

Charlotte Bach Festival Success.jpg

Bach Akademie Charlotte’s first annual Charlotte Bach Festival concluded June 17th after a nine day season of eight concerts. With over 1000 people in attendance over the course of the festival, an effusive review of the opening concert, and an overwhelmingly positive response from both audience members and performers alike, the inaugural festival has been successful in what it set out to accomplish: striving to bring the highest quality performances of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to Charlotte, and enriching the community in the process. Said Bach Akademie President Michael H. Trammell, “We couldn’t be more pleased, and to all who participated, donated, supported, and attended, we at Bach Akademie Charlotte cannot thank you enough!

Click here to visit the 2018 Charlotte Bach Festival Photo Gallery >

The musicians of the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra and the Bach Akademie Charlotte Cantata Choir gathered in the extended metro area of the Queen City only a few days before the first concert. A number of Bach lovers in the community generously opened their homes to our musicians, giving them the freedom to focus exclusively on making music for the duration of the festival. After getting settled and having a few rehearsals, it was time to kick off the festival in the beautiful space of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlotte, thanks to the support and planning of Christ Church Music Director Ben Outen.

On the evening of Saturday, June 9, The Festival Opening Celebration began the festivities, with a program of Bach’s First Orchestral Suite, Cantata 147, and the motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. After enthusiastic applause, the musicians and the audience attended a reception featuring a beer tasting from the Old Mecklenburg Brewery, one of the festival’s generous sponsors. The next day, the program went on the road to First United Methodist Church of Gastonia, where Minister of Music Saxon Scarborough kindly welcomed the festival into yet another lovely acoustic.

Charlotte Bach Festival Guy Fishman Performance.jpgThe first Visiting Artist Recital of the festival took place the following day, on Monday evening, again at Christ Episcopal Church. Guy Fishman, the principal cellist of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, played the first three Bach Cello Suites to a mesmerized audience. With blazing technique, a charming and witty demeanor, and a deep sensitivity to the emotional and structural identity of the music, Guy delighted and inspired. We were deeply fortunate to host this wonderful musician, who made it very clear how much he valued the mission of Bach Akademie.

Monday also marked the arrival of the four participants in the Emerging Artist Program, Bach Akademie’s principal educational initiative. Soprano Olivia Miller, mezzo-soprano Lauren Russell, tenor Blake Beckemeyer, and bass William Marshall began rehearsing with the Cantata Choir that day for the rest of the festival’s performances. Throughout the week they had masterclasses and workshops, as well as the educational osmosis that occurs from performing next to outstanding musicians.

Tuesday and Thursday featured The Bach Experience, Scott Allen Jarrett’s Noon lecture-concerts consisting of a discussion of Bach’s vocal works with consideration for the musical, liturgical, and theological contexts of Bach’s particular creative time and place. Taking place in the Francis Chapel of Myers Park United Methodist Church, Tuesday’s concert was well attended and beautifully performed. Both the audience and the musicians were impressed by Scott’s ability to humanize the genius of Bach, giving a thoughtful insight that enhanced appreciation of the music.

Charlotte Bach Festival  Bach Experience.jpgIn fact, Tuesday’s performance was so popular that projected attendance for Thursday’s concert would exceed the capacity of Francis Chapel. After a late night discussion among the staff, the second Bach Experience concert was moved upstairs to Myers Park United Methodist Church Jubilee Hall, with a lot of help and quick thinking by church staff members Nancy Hamff and Peg Broughton. It turned out to have been a wise decision, given that Thursday’s audience was almost double that of Tuesday’s concert and would no have fit in Francis Chapel.

Charlotte Bach Festival Bálint Karosi.jpgOn Friday evening, the second and final Visiting Artist Recital took place in Uptown Charlotte’s St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Twelve local organists and organ enthusiasts came together to help underwrite a recital by Bálint Karosi, a competition-winning organist and composer who serves as Cantor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan. The American Guild of Organists also co-hosted the event. Bálint curated a program of works by or inspired by Bach, including some of his own compositions from his upcoming organ book Hommage à Bach. His outstanding virtuosity was matched by his creativity in using the sonic capabilities of the church’s fantastic and remarkably versatile Fisk organ.

Charlotte Bach Festival B Minor Mass.jpgThe second weekend of the festival brought the season to a close with a piece that a year ago seemed impossible to pull off: Bach’s late masterpiece, the B minor mass. With the help of Lee Northcutt, Myers Park Presbyterian Church became the home base for the project. Throughout the week, Scott Allen Jarrett had been working hard to prepare the chorus and orchestra mentally, physically, and emotionally for such a monumental work. The result was an overwhelmingly moving experience, with the Saturday night performance in Myers Park attracting some 300 people. The second B minor concert and final performance of the festival took place on Sunday, June 19, in Winston-Salem’s beautiful Centenary United Methodist Church, with the organizational help of music director Rob Frazier. The beautiful acoustic provided a wonderful canvas for the musicians to enjoy the fruits of their labor; as an ensemble, they had matured and deepened their musicianship throughout the week, thanks to Scott Allen Jarrett’s constant high standard and selfless approach to the music of Bach.

As goodbyes were said and the first Charlotte Bach Festival came to a close, one general idea was shared again and again by both listeners and performers: a sense of excitement and anticipation about next year’s festival. We have felt honored, privileged, and humbled to share the music of Bach with the Charlotte community, and we can’t wait to continue to bring you great performances of great music. Be sure to see our announcements about the 2018|19 Cantata Series programming as well as the Second Annual Charlotte Bach Festival!

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