UMass Amherst Bach Festival and Symposium
The University of Massachusetts Amherst Bach Festival 2015 is conceived as the pilot event of an ongoing biannual festival, with the purpose of providing UMass music students with an extraordinary educational and collaborative opportunity while creating a destination event for the Western Massachusetts community and beyond. Guest performers and scholars of international renown will work closely with current UMass faculty and students; for the UMass community as well as the public at large, this weekend will provide an unprecedented window into the performance practice and scholarship of the work of JS Bach. UMass is uniquely positioned to host such an event: our outstanding performance and history faculty, strong student body, resources of scholarship in related fields, and core audience of loyal concertgoers provides the ideal platform to create an event that can have a significant- perhaps transformative --impact on the cultural life of Western Massachusetts.
The performance component of the festival has as its centerpiece a Saturday evening performance of the rarely performed 1725 version St. John Passion. In the week preceding the festival, internationally recognized conductor Julian Wachner will work with our student chorus (who are being prepared throughout the semester by Assistant Professor Tony Thornton, UMass choral director) and an orchestra led by UMass faculty and staffed by recent alumni, local professionals, and advanced students, selected by audition. Soloists of national prominence will join UMass voice professor William Hite, a seasoned specialist in this repertoire who will sing the role of the Evangelist. Other performance events comprise master classes by the invited soloists, a Sunday cantata concert performed by UMass alumni, a performance by the Opus One Chamber Orchestra (UMass conductorless ensemble) with faculty soloists Gilles Vonsattel, Christopher Krueger, and Elizabeth Chang.
The symposium component of the festival in entitled “Back to--and Forward from--J.S. Bach: A Symposium Exploring the Revival, Reception, and Appropriation of the Music of J.S. Bach in the Long Twentieth Century.” This relatively unexplored topic intersects with the research interests of several UMass music history faculty members. Fourteen speakers are slated to participate; the keynote address will be delivered by Richard Taruskin, Professor of Musicology at the University of Califorinia at Berkley. Fourteen senior speakers, including internationally renowned Bach scholar Christoph Wolff, will present at this symposium. Graduate student papers will also be presented. Papers will be published online at the conclusion of the symposium.
This festival offers a rare artistic opportunity for UMass vocal and instrumental music students to collaborate on one of the most significant works in the repertoire. The demands of this work require orchestral and vocal forces on a professional level to supplement what the students can provide—hence the framework of the festival rests on the collaboration of faculty and hired professional soloists and the leadership of a guest conductor who is a pre-eminent specialist in this repertoire.
Coordination of this weekend with a symposium led by the history faculty will allow students to contextualize their understanding of this work and share the insights provided by contemporary scholarship. The structure of the festival will create an intense dialogue between history and performance, exploring how performance practices have evolved and how perceptions and appropriations of the music of JS Bach have changed in the past century.
The selection of the 1725 version of the St John Passion will expose the UMass community and the general public to a rarely performed version of a seminal work; the integration of students with faculty and invited professionals will bring the performance to a professional level that will be a unique experience for participants and audience alike.
This project has received generous support from and is largely funded by the UMass College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the Department of Music and Dance, the UMass Arts Council, and the Amherst Cultural Council, the Fine Arts Center, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as well as private donors.
Your support will allow us to create a suitable program of the event that will provide recognition to all student, faculty and professional participants in the symposium. The program will serve as a wonderful memento for students to remember their participation in this extraordinary festival, and will provide them a resource to form valuable connections with participants after the festival. Additionally your contribution will assist with expanding our print publicity, covering the costs of concert production (including harpsichord cartage and stage management), and organizing a high-quality video recording of the event to be used for fundraising at future festivals and publicity for our department.
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