Oregon Bach Festival launches season with innovative concerts

John Nelson conducting

The internationally recognized Oregon Bach Festival is about to launch another summer of concerts, educational events and family activities for a two-week summer run starting June 28.

The opening celebration begins at 6 p.m. June 28 in the lobby of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Eugene with live music, food and drinks. The evening includes a talk with acclaimed British conductor Jane Glover, who will lead the opening concert of Mozart’s “Requiem” and Symphony No. 29.

Left unfinished after his death, Mozart’s “Requiem” is considered his final masterpiece and is “full of power and drama,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Glover will guide the Bach festival orchestra and chorus along with a number of soloists.

A cornerstone of this year’s festival is the Bach in Motion project Friday, July 5. A collaborative venture brings a collection of Bach’s finest works, chosen by Bach researcher Koji Otsuki, to life through movement.

DanceAbility International partners with the festival to connect Bach’s aspirational sense of humanity to expressions of self-discovery and the equality of humanity beyond the perceived limitations of physical form. Choreographed by DanceAbility founder Alito Alessi, co-choreographed by Shannon Mockli and conducted by Glover, it is a centerpiece event for the festival.

Other artists showcase their activism through classical music during the 2019 festival. MacArthur Fellow Vijay Gupta visits for a once-in-a-lifetime presentation of the Hinkle Lecture on Tuesday, July 9.

A performer, communicator and citizen-artist, Gupta is the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, a nonprofit providing musical engagement and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles. He is a leading advocate for the role of the arts and music to heal, inspire, provoke change and foster social connection.

Pianist and activist Darrell Grant is a staple in Oregon, showing his love for the region through unique projects. “The Territory,” on Friday, July 12, is a musical exploration of Oregon’s geographical and cultural history, from the floods and eruptions that formed its unique landscape, to the experiences of native peoples, settlers and immigrants who have called Oregon home.

Grant and his jazz ensemble will reimagine Oregon’s history with melodies borrowed from Nez Perce chants, thematic elements representing rolling ice-age floods and vibrations he imagines resonating throughout Oregon’s hills.

Sprinkled throughout the festival are educational opportunities and premier events. Four “Let’s Talk!” events will highlight forthcoming concerts with artist discussions and question-and-answer sessions.

The popular Discovery Series will discuss two of Bach’s cantatas intended for Pentecost Sunday: 74, on Wednesday, July 3; and 34, on Sunday, July 7. Renowned conductor Scott Allen Jarrett will lead the events.

Engaging the young mind is an important aspect of Oregon Bach Festival, and it hosts two family events that bookend the festival: “Legends on Coyote,” Saturday, June 29, and “Princess Elise,” Saturday, July 13.

For those who enjoy music and food, the festival has two events that combine the two: Lunch and Brews Serenade on July 8 and Score Study Brunch on July 12.

A twist on the previous excursions, Peter Gregson will perform cello music that will be paired with curated brews from Ninkasi Brewing Company and a lunch from Party Downtown during Lunch and Brews Serenade. Enjoy light bites and an in-depth look at Berlioz’s symphonic poem “Romeo and Juliet” during Score Study Brunch. Follow along in the score and learn how artists bring the music from the page to the stage.

The Oregon Bach Festival Organ Institute will return July 8-13, culminating in the annual recital Saturday, July 13. The Organ Institute, directed by Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs, offers organists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the music of Bach and explore technique and interpretation through specialized seminars, master classes and performance.

Jacobs and Organ Institute alumnus Gregory Zelek also will perform during the festival on Monday, July 8, and Wednesday, July 10, respectively.

The Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance and Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy return this year with performances showcasing young talent. Berwick Academy celebrates its fifth anniversary Monday, July 1, with a performance of Baroque music, including works from Telemann and Rameau.

In addition to conducting, recorder virtuoso Matthias Maute will be the featured soloist on Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto in G major.

Now in its 22nd year, the Stangeland youth chorus will fill First United Methodist Church on Wednesday, July 10, with the sounds of Bach’s popular BWV 140, or “The Sleepers Wake” cantata, and a complement of diverse, contemporary works. Celebrated choral conductor Anton Armstrong will once again lead a bevy of the best high school choral singers from around the country.

Closing out the concert, John Nelson conducts the Shakespeare narrative that the composer deemed “too beautiful, too musical” not to be performed, “Romeo and Juliet” by Berlioz, on Saturday, July 13, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death. Bass Eric Owens will portray the central role of Friar Laurence.

To learn more or buy tickets, visit the Oregon Bach Festival’s website.