The Oldest Bach Festivals Combine for Anniversary Celebration

BEREA, Ohio, July 5 /PRNewswire/ — The nation’s two oldest Bach Festivals have announced plans to join forces as they mark major milestones with a gala celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach next spring. The Bethlehem Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pa. which celebrates its 100th anniversary, and the oldest collegiate Bach Festival at Baldwin-Wallace College which celebrates its 75th anniversary, will combine resources for two concerts in April and May.

“The Bethlehem Festival was the genesis of our Bach Festival,” said Kent Cleland, interim director of the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music. “A 75th and a 100th anniversary are significant occasions. When you celebrate occasions like that, you should do something extraordinary. We’re convinced that combining these two exceptional programs will deliver a special moment for lovers of J.S. Bach’s music.”

“The Bach Choir of Bethlehem gave the first performance in the United States of Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor on March 27, 1900 and, one year later, the first American performance of his beloved Christmas Oratorio,” noted Greg Funfgeld, Artistic Director and Conductor. “Many of Bach’s masterworks were heard for the first time in Bethlehem.

Everyone involved in our organization looks forward to our 100th Festival with a keen sense of anticipation and boundless enthusiasm. To collaborate with our colleagues and fellow Bach-lovers from Baldwin-Wallace deepens our joy, enriches our understanding of Bach and his music, and adds to the palpable sense of excitement around both of these major anniversary celebrations.”

The celebration begins in Berea Friday, April 20, 2007 at the Baldwin-Wallace College Bach Festival. Two days of events culminate in a concert Saturday afternoon, April 21, at Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra. That concert will feature the B-W Conservatory performers and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem in a combined performance of Bach’s Mass in B-Minor. On May 12 the combined ensembles will repeat their performance as a part of the Bethlehem Bach Festival.

The 2007 Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival will feature Ullrich Bohme, organist at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where Bach was once cantor. Vocal soloists include Tamara Matthews, soprano; Jennifer Lane, mezzo-soprano; Stanford Olsen, tenor; Christopheren Nomura, baritone; and Kevin Deas, bass.

Patrons also may visit the Riemenschneider Bach Institute at B-W whose holdings include original Bach manuscripts, many copies of first editions, copies of Bach works used in performance by Clara Schumann and a copy of Brahms’ own conducting score of his Requiem, among many others.

The Baldwin-Wallace College Bach Festival was established in 1932 by Albert Riemenschneider, long-time director of the Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory, and his wife Selma.

“The collaboration of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and the B-W Bach Festival is a wonderful celebration of my parents’ passion for music, B-W and the Cleveland area,” said Paul A. Riemenschneider, MD, the youngest and only surviving child of Albert and Selma. “I vividly remember my family’s trip to the Bethlehem Bach Festival in 1931 when they did nothing but discuss the possibility of replicating what they had heard in Bethlehem the entire trip home.”

Today, the festival brings internationally recognized soloists and talented conservatory students together on the B-W campus to perform the works of Bach and his contemporaries. Dwight Oltman, beginning his 32nd year as music director of the festival, is only the third conductor to hold the position.

The first Bethlehem Bach Festival took place in Central Moravian Church in 1900 and the Festival moved to the campus of Lehigh University in 1912, where it now takes place on the first two weekends of May each year, attracting thousands of Bach lovers from across the country and abroad. The 100th Bethlehem Bach Festival offers performances and special events May 3-6 (Thursday -Sunday) and May 10-12 (Thursday-Saturday).

The 100th Festival gathers artists from the worlds of dance, jazz, film, theater, and the visual arts, to join The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and Bach Festival Orchestra in a spectacular celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Guest artists include such luminaries as Taylor 2 — the touring ensemble of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Stefon Harris — jazz vibraphonist and composer, and the Baltimore Consort.

Distinguished speakers include Dr. Miachel Marissen and the Rev. Dr. Martin Marty. A major exhibit — The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, A Visual History will be featured in the Zoellner Arts Center Gallery. The heart of the Festival will be the performances each weekend of The Saint Matthew Passion and The Mass in B-Minor, directed by Greg Funfgeld, in the beautiful and historic Packer Memorial Church.

The chorus of The Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival will join The Bach Choir of Bethlehem for the performance of The Mass on Saturday May 5. Vocal soloists include Anne Grimm, soprano; Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano; Daniel Taylor, countertenor; Frederick Urrey, tenor; Benjamin Butterfield, tenor; William Sharp, baritone; and Christopheren Nomura, bass-baritone.

“These two festivals have been sharing the music of the master for generations of music lovers,” Oltman said. “Both performances of The Mass in B Minor will be unique with different conductors, different soloists and different orchestras. They will provide an exceptional experience for the choruses and a special moment for the audience.”

For more information about the Bethlehem Bach Festival go to http://www.bach.org/ .

For more information about the Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival go to http://www.bw.edu/bachfest .

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