The Victoria Bach Festival has been enriching the lives of Crossroads residents with orchestral, choral, and chamber music since 1976. The festival was founded under the direction of David Urness, a faculty member at the University of Houston-Victoria.
From 1992 to 2015, the festival grew under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, who served as its artistic director. Johnson is well-known for his Grammy-winning Conspirare chorus based in Austin.
When Johnson gave up his post, there was some question about what the festival would look like going forward, but the new artistic director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez replaced the question mark with an exclamation point, according to a 2017 Classical Voice North America article by Mike Greenberg.
“But there’s more to Hernandez-Valdez than mastery of Bach. His programming choices also signaled an intention to up the festival’s game in music of the modern era, into the present, and to reflect the region’s Hispanic heritage,” Greenberg wrote in 2017. “Remarkably for a festival with such high musical standards, most performances were offered free to the public.”
This year, the performance, Mystic Journeys, is an example of the variety guests will find at the festival. Faith DeBow called it a “delightful adventure that is unexpected and feels right at the same time.” The instrumentation is interesting with some music originally written for guitar being played on the piano and vice versa. The performance will include popular, classical and choral music that “people really enjoy.”
For those who have not developed a taste for classical music, the festival provides them with an opportunity to expand their horizons. That said, classical music is not the sole genre performed at the festival. There is something for everyone.
The festival is like a family reunion for many of the musicians who have been meeting in Victoria once a year for many years. Year after year, the musicians also enjoy seeing members of the community who have great enthusiasm for the festival. Typically, residents of the Crossroads open their homes to the visiting musicians by offering them a place to stay while they are in town. This year, most of the musicians are staying in hotels because of the pandemic, DeBow said.
The fact that the festival is happening with live, in-person performances this year is alone worth celebrating since the pandemic shut that down last year.
“I think the big celebration is that we are returning to live music and being together again,” said Nina Di Leo, executive director of the Bach Festival. “It’s a special annual reunion of audiences and music and music lovers from all over the country who come together to celebrate music being made live in the room — that’s the heart of our mission and experience, and we’re very glad to be able to offer that to audiences again.”
Hernandez-Valdez called the Victoria Bach Festival a diamond. We agree.
“It’s such a special thing to have in a relatively small town — a high-quality festival,” he said. “I encourage people to take advantage of it — it’s as high quality as what you see in New York City, LA and San Francisco right in Victoria, the heart of Texas. It might be a five-minute ride in the car to get to world-class music.”
While admission to the evening performances range from $20 to $25, guests pay what they want for all of the noon performances — $10 is recommended. These fees are incredibly reasonable.
We join Hernandez-Valdez in urging festival veterans to continue the rich tradition of supporting the Victoria Bach Festival, a huge gem in a relatively small city. And we encourage those who have never attended the festival to expand their horizons, too.