The American Bach Society was founded in 1972 to support the study, appreciation and performance of the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach. All three objectives will be much in evidence when the society holds in biennial meeting at Kenyon, including a series of free, public concerts.
About 60 scholars and musicians from North America and a contingent from Germany will visit Kenyon on May 1-4 to present papers and perform works related to the great composer and the Baroque period he defined.
Associate Professor of Music Reginald Sanders, secretary-treasurer of the American Bach Society, helped bring the prestigious conference to campus. “It shows that Kenyon has the capacity for these sorts of music meetings,” Sanders said. “We have lovely performance venues, a wonderful space for presentations in the Gund Gallery, and one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.”
The theme of this year’s meeting is “Johann Sebastian Bach and his Sons,” and the event showcases the lives and music of four of Bach’s sons, who were also outstanding musicians. The topic was chosen because this year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach, the most famous Bach son.
“Audiences today hear mostly the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, but the music of his sons also deserves a public hearing. Some of it is really fantastic,” Sanders said.
The papers sessions cover topics ranging from the Bach family legacy to analysis of individual works. One of the world’s leading Bach scholars, Christoph Wolff of the Harvard University Department of Music and director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig, Germany, delivers the keynote address on Friday, May 2.
Although the papers sessions are open to only registrants, concerts on Thursday through Sunday are free and open to the public. Guest artists include award-winning organist David Yearsley of Cornell University; the Washington Bach Consort, a nationally acclaimed and widely recognized chorus and orchestra; and Newton Baroque, a Boston-based instrument ensemble known for is improvisation.
“It’s exciting to have them all on campus at the same time, each one of which is a headliner,” Sanders said. “All of them are performing on period instruments, such as the harpsichord and fortepiano, which gives our audiences the chance to experience the music as it was heard in Bach’s time. We couldn’t ask for better performers. They will feature a lot of music by Bach’s sons.”
Conference attendees and the public are welcome to attend the Harcourt Parish worship service on Sunday, May 4, at 10:30 a.m., in the Church of the Holy Spirit, where the Newton Baroque will perform J.S. Bach’s Cantata 112, and Robin A. Leaver, visiting professor at Yale University and past president of the American Bach Society, will give a sermon in the style of the 18th century.
The other public events include an organ recital by Yearsley on Thursday, May 1, at 8 p.m., in the Church of the Holy Spirit; a Newton Baroque concert on Friday, May 2, at 3 p.m., at Rosse Hall: a concert by the Washington Bach Consort on Friday, May 2, at 8 p.m. at Rosse Hall; and a concert by Newton Baroque on Saturday, May 3, at 8 p.m., at Rosse Hall.
To learn more about the event call 740-427-5198. Music performances are sponsored by the Kenyon Taylor Concert Series and Department of Music.