Two luminaries in the world of classical music and the work of Johann Sebastian Bach have been named as the new artistic partners who will help lead the acclaimed Oregon Bach Festival into its second half-century.
The festival and University of Oregon School of Music and Dance have announced the appointment of Jos van Veldhoven and Craig Hella Johnson as artistic partners. Van Veldhoven is a Dutch conductor and longtime artistic director of the Netherlands Bach Society, and Johnson is a celebrated choral conductor and past conductor of the Victoria Bach Festival.
Johnson and van Veldhoven are charged with shaping the Grammy-winning festival’s artistic vision, contributing to the development of the festival’s annual concert schedule, and cultivating artist relationships that result in new works and commissions. They also will play key roles in the recruitment of acclaimed conductors, instrumental and vocal performers, and educators.
“The exceptional creative and educational endeavors of the Oregon Bach Festival will be elevated to new heights with the addition of Craig and Jos,” said University of Oregon President Karl Scholz. “Both conductors are universally respected and proven experts in their disciplines.”
Scholz said the new partners will be a welcome addition to the festival’s storied programs and will help boost its worldwide prestige.
“It is no secret that Oregon Bach Festival’s world-class performances and top-tier training programs have contributed to the music world while strengthening the university’s cultural status around the globe for more than 50 years,” he said. “The visions shared by these new artistic partners continue the legacy of making UO a truly distinct place for music and music education in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.”
Sabrina Madison-Cannon, dean of the UO School of Music and Dance, agreed.
“Our new artistic partners are internationally celebrated artists whose stature and affiliation with OBF furthers its reputation as one of the world's great music festivals,” she said. “Craig and Jos are both collaborative, charismatic and wonderfully galvanizing musicians who embody OBF's mission and values. We are thrilled to partner with them.”
Veldhoven has been the artistic director of the Netherlands Bach Society for more than 35 years. He will draw upon his decades of leadership and recording experience to guide the artistic vision of the Oregon Bach Festival Period Orchestra and the lauded Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance training program.
“I feel like I am getting my youth back,” van Veldhoven said. “New energy is flowing through my veins again and I am eager to get started! It is an honor and an extraordinary pleasure.”
Van Veldhoven’s Bach reputation is well-documented as the initiator of All of Bach, an unprecedented, ongoing project in which the Netherlands Bach Society performs, records and publishes all of Bach's works online. More than 20 million followers enjoy the widely celebrated recordings.
Johnson is a Grammy-winning choral conductor and the artistic director of the critically acclaimed Conspirare vocal ensemble, as well as music director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival. The nine-time Grammy nominee will lead the Oregon Bach Festival’s modern choral initiatives, strengthening the festival’s longstanding stature as a world leader in sacred and modern choral music.
“It is with great joy and profound gratitude that I join Oregon Bach Festival,” Johnson said. “This specially designed OBF framework of seeking artistic sparks and inspiration from a circle of collaborating creatives feels fresh, vibrant and truly contemporary. I love this festival, and the time feels so right for this kind of collaborative dynamic structure.”
Both artistic partners also will participate in annual academic-year residencies at the University of Oregon.
Johnson and van Veldhoven join an established Oregon Bach Festival artistic leadership team that includes award-winning choral directors Kathy Saltzman Romey with the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, Anton Armstrong with the Oregon Bach Festival Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, and Sharon Paul with the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, as well as Grammy-winning organist Paul Jacobs of the Oregon Bach Festival Organ Institute.
The festival’s new artistic partners will serve as “designates” in 2024 and begin their festival tenures with programming and training program curriculum planning in the 2025 season.
—Top photo: Craig Hella Johnson (left) and Jos van Veldhoven