For the love of Johann Sebastian

By Sarah Marren
Posted 6/5/19

Three hundred sixty—nine years after his death, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach lives on in the hearts and voices of the Hudson Valley Society for Music.

This year marks the 20th Bach …

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For the love of Johann Sebastian

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Three hundred sixty—nine years after his death, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach lives on in the hearts and voices of the Hudson Valley Society for Music.

This year marks the 20th Bach Fest that the Hudson Valley Society for Music has put together, but the idea didn’t start in the Hudson Valley. In 1999, three of the Society’s directors, Laura Ramsey Russell, Ruthanne Schempf and Emily Faxon saw a music festival dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach in New Hampshire. It seemed to be part of a trend along the Northeast states to pay tribute to this brilliant composer, and the Society for Music brought it back home to the Hudson Valley.

Bach Fest features talented performers of all ages from all across the Hudson Valley. Carol Lundergan, president of the board, says that the choir has, “over 75 singers and about 25-30 instrumentalists.” Those instrumentalists can include older musicians like Yalin Chin, Silvia Buccelli and Alex Peh of the Zion Episcopal church, but can also include younger talent like Bruce and Reilly Xu, who have made names for themselves across the U.S. as accomplished organists and formidable competitors.

They’re just a few of the many young musicians who get a chance to show their talent by performing the more challenging musical pieces displayed in these concerts.

The Society even host concerts specifically meant to showcase their younger musicians called the Young Performers’ Concerts, which make for an entertaining and educating performance for both the performers and the audience.

Each performance is themed around a different aspect of Bach’s work, such as one concert, ‘Bach the Master’ featuring Bach’s orchestra works accompanied by a chorus. This includes Magnificat in D Major, which Carol has stated is a favorite among the performers and directors. Choral director and Bach fest member Laura Ramsey Russell says that, “The Magnificat was the first choral work that I conducted on the very first Hudson Valley BachFest, and it is a thrill to be able to again present this glorious work for our 20th anniversary season. It is one of Bach’s most beloved and best-known works, full of joy, complexity and ingenuity, and is indeed a ‘Master Work’ in every sense of the word.” According to Carol, this performance brings in the largest audience, “Audience size can vary depending on the venue, but our Magnificat performance gets about 250 to 300 attendees.” It shows how popular Bach’s music is and how popular the Hudson Valley Society for music has become.

It seems that the popularity of Bach Fest has accomplished the mission of the Hudson Valley Society for Music. From the Society’s website is says “The Hudson Valley Society for Music is dedicated to the promotion of music at a community level for the enjoyment of live ‘classical’ music among the general public; to help area professional performing artists develop their skills; to develop communal support and to provide enrichment for local students.” The fact that this classical music festival has been running for 20 years shows that the community’s enjoyment of live classical music is alive and well. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bach Fest is successful because it did what music always does, bring people together.

The Hudson Valley Society for Music will host its annual multi-weekend Bach Fest music festival over two weekends: Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9, and Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15.

“Bach the Virtuoso” will be held on Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m at the Zion Episcopal Church, 12 Satterlee Place, in Wappingers Falls. Tickets are $15 general, children/students are free

“Bach the Master” will be held on Sunday June 9 at 3 p.m. in the Skinner Hall of Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, in Poughkeepsie. Tickets are $20 general, children/students are free.

“Bach the Patriarch” will be held on Friday, June 14 at 7 p.m. at Woodland Pond, 100 Woodland Pond Circle, in New Paltz. This concert is free and open to the public, limited to 25 seats for nonresidents. Call 256-5600.

“Bach the Teacher” will be held on Saturday, June 15 at 2 p.m. in two locations. “Young Performers North” will perform at New Paltz United Methodist Church, 1 Grove Street in New Paltz and “Young Performers South” will perform at Cornwall Presbyterian Church, 222 Hudson Street, at Cornwall-on-Hudson. Both performances are free and open to the public.

“Bach the Borrower” will be held on Saturday June 15 at 7:30 p.m at Cornwall Presbyterian Church, 222 Hudson Street, at Cornwall-on-Hudson. Tickets are $15 general, children/students are free.

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