We’re a little less than two weeks out from the 111th Bethlehem Bach Festival! So far, only the Chamber Music in the Saal Concerts have sold out – it’s likely Zimmerman’s Coffee House will do the same. Please visit the Festival page for more information about individual events. I have previously summarized what I anticipate will be some of the highlights of the Festival in the hot-off-the-presses Spring Issue of the Bach Choir News, so I will offer a few of my usual pro tips for making the most of the Festival, a wonderful time of homecoming for members of the Bach Choir Family from near and far and an immersion in the aesthetic, spiritual, social, and life-affirming world of this unique pair of weekends and their namesake.
- Allergy Medication – this peculiarly late-arriving spring is resulting in what horticulturists expect to be the pollenocalypse. Our flowering trees are nearly in full bloom, and all the rest are budding simultaneously. Lehigh University’s campus is resplendent but also loaded with the particle evidence of a particularly fertile spring. Be prepared!
- Attend Something New! ‘Cellist Dale Henderson has introduced scores (and scores) of people to the Kapellmeister’s music through his innovative and exciting Bach in the Subways project. He will be partnering with Paul Miller, or principal violist, and She-e Wu, Festival Artist-in-Residence to offer Bach Outdoors, an exciting new Festival initiative – a free concert at Bethlehem’s lovely Payrow Plaza. If you’ve not attended the Distinguished Scholar Lecture, I highly commend it to you. This year’s Scholar, Dr. Robin Leaver, is a witty and enlightening speaker (I readily admit my bias as one of his former students), and his program annotations for our concerts have done so much to enrich our knowledge and inform our listening. Hearing him speak will be a joy.
- Ready yourself for some magic! I’ve been reading Armando Iannucci’s excellent collection of essays on classical music entitled Hear Me Out (he’s one of the creators of the archly irreverent and hilarious HBO series, Veep). One of his pet peeves, it seems, is the overpromising, mystical language often used about classical music, particularly when reference is made to the “Music of the Spheres.” I empathize, but Friday night’s concert will feature two works that allude to, or make specific mention of, the universal music of the cosmos, and they are both going to be spectacular. With a champagne toast and luminaries on tap following the concert, the atmosphere and repertoire will reflect a particularly celebratory environment.
- Enjoy the company. The Bach Choir Family is a special group of enthusiasts, friends, and artists, and our mutual esteem for Bach and his music results in a rewarding sense of community. You’ll be able to interact with virtuoso musicians, cheerful amateurs, two Road Scholars groups, distinguished academics, and folks from all walks of life eager to share in the overflowing cup of blessings that this Festival represents. It’s glorious!
- Bring a friend. Those of us who love it find Bach’s music tremendously uplifting and healing. If you have a friend or a loved one who could use some uplift or a dose of Bach’s healing empathy, bring them along. In my latter years, I’ve come to really treasure shared experiences more than gifts (or have come to regard them as the best gifts). The Mass in B-Minor halved with a lovely outdoor picnic is about as salubrious and joyful afternoon as I can imagine, all the better to be shared with someone dear!
Stay tuned to the blog for frequent updates on Festival repertoire and concerts, as well as updates from what the musicians affectionately and (mostly) ironically refer to as “Hell Week,” as we ready ourselves for two absolutely grand weekends!