The Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival returns to the Fredonia Opera House June 8-10, for the 17th year. Under Artistic Director Grant Cooper, the series of three concerts explores both the masterworks and lesser-known orchestral and vocal music of 17th and 18th century Baroque composers.
Performances focus on music by familiar composers such as Bach, Vivaldi and Handel, but the "beyond" in the Festival's name refers to including outstanding works of others who are artistically linked to those superstars. This year's Festival celebrates J.S. Bach in a big way, including featuring an all-Bach concert on Sunday.
The Festival features performances of Bach's Orchestral Suites Nos. 1, 3 and 4. Each of the three Festival concerts will include one of these Suites. (Orchestra Suite No. 3 contains the beautiful "Air" used in many weddings.) The program also will feature Festival Concertmistress Julie Leven in Bach's Violin Concerto in a minor. And, vocal music returns after a three-year absence with Soprano Janet Brown performing on the Festival's Friday and Sunday concerts.
The 17th Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival features musicians from throughout North America, including selected local musicians such as Violist Brian Walnicki (above).
Cooper, artistic director of the West Virginia Symphony, brings to the Festival top musicians from throughout North America who are specialists in and passionate about Baroque performance. Many are Festival veterans. "The players have a strong sense of loyalty to the Festival from year to year," he says.
People who are new to the Festival will appreciate "performances that attempt to capture the essence of this period," says Cooper. "Through the use of Baroque bows, for instance, we make a sound less massive and more intimate than one hears from modern instruments and playing techniques."
This year's Festival features an element that was added last year and was so popular it is being continued, says Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis. A series of pre-concert discussions called "Bach & Before," will begin an hour before each of the three Festival concerts. In them, Cooper and selected musicians will talk about that evening's program. The conversations will include, for example, specific elements of the performance to listen for, information on the music's historical context, and the musicians' impressions and reflections. The discussions are an informative and engaging way to gain more insight into the music and music-makers before the performance! Admission to "Bach & Before" conversations is free to concert ticket holders. They will be held in the second floor Trustees Room in Village Hall.
The Festival concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 10, at 4 p.m. at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House. Concert programs are listed on the Opera House web site at www.fredopera.org. Tickets are $20 reserved seating for each concert. A subscription to all three concerts is available for $45. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891, Tuesday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. They also may be purchased anytime online at www.fredopera.org.
Subscribers to all three concerts receive an invitation to a special subscriber's reception with the musicians immediately following the Sunday afternoon performance.
The Bach & Beyond Festival is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and with the support of the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County. Concert sponsors include Carol & Jim Boltz, June & Barry Dietrich and the estate of Barbara Davey. Opera House media partners are WDOE-AM and Kix96-FM radio stations.
Chautauqua County's only performing arts center featuring its own programming year-round, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported, not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia.