Bach artistic director talks about 35th anniversary festival


June 7, 2010 at 1:07 a.m.

The Victoria Bach Festival begins Tuesday and continues through Saturday. Longtime artistic director Craig Hella Johnson answers some questions about what can be expected from the festival this year.

Q: How do you feel about this being the 35th anniversary of the Victoria Bach Festival?

A: It's very special. It's an incredible anniversary to mark. I delight in knowing that Victoria has supported and nurtured this festival so strongly all these years. We're here this week to celebrate and to pay great respect and express our gratitude to all the people who have led the festival and supported it including all the musicians, all the patrons, the board members and audience members.

Q: Is there anything new this year in the program?

A: One thing that is new for us this year is for the Tuesday noon concert, we're doing what we're calling "Big Sing." Basically, you don't need any experience or know how to read music, but if you have any desire to make music, or sing in shower or in the car, we'll be leading a 50 minute session of singing together. We'll do some fun vocal warm ups and then dive in and sing together as one large group. No skills are required and it's absolutely come one, come all.

We're really hoping people will come to this. It's nice to have this experience for those who are in listening mode to come and make sounds freely and without judgement in a fun, non-threatening atmosphere.

Q: What are you excited about this year for the festival?

A: I'm excited about two things, which seem a bit contrasting. One is that there is such great diversity in the classical repertoire in our programming this year. Michelle Schumann, creative adviser, has done a superb job arranging for the chamber concerts. And I'm also terribly excited for the breadth of programming this year.

By the same token, I am so pleased a large core of our repertoire is the music of Bach and we are able to feature the Mass in B Minor, one of his most important works and his Brandenburg concertos.

Also notable this year is the opportunity for outreach. The board of directors has made a real commitment to entice listeners from a larger region to come to Victoria, which not only supports the festival but also tourism dollars and the economy, and just brings in a broader audience and enhances the whole experience.

Q: Can you give a little preview of Saturday night's finale performance?

A: It's a collaboration with the orchestra and vocal ensemble Conspirare. Bach's Mass in B Minor will be featured, which is one of the most significant works of Bach. It's a towering masterpiece in western culture and this is a very special opportunity to hear this work.

This piece was likely never heard by Bach in his lifetime as a complete entity. He was assembling this work in the last few years of his life and for Bach, the piece is an amazing statement. It's a statement about the universal. You have a very strongly Lutheran composer who is writing a very large Catholic Mass, and everything about his intention with this piece was to be all-inclusive and to say that this is an experience that is open to all.



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