Lindsey Treffry | The Argonaut
The music and sounds of Johann Sebastian Bach filled the University of Idaho Haddock Performance Hall as part of the inaugural opening to the first ever Idaho Bach Festival.
Led by UI artistic director Michael Murphy, the festival began Thursday evening and will run until Friday afternoon.
“I think the reason why I decided that I wanted to be the art director of a Bach festival is because it became apparent speaking with colleagues and the public that people are drawn to performing and hearing the music of Bach,” Murphy said. “His music is enjoyed by many, many people — no matter what culture, ideology or religion ... people enjoy his music and are captivated by his music across many, many different cultures.”
The festival on Thursday showcased students, professors and community members with an opening by the Northwest Wind Quartet as well as a closing ceremony by the Idaho Baroque consort, the Vandaleers concert choir (a top UI audition choir), and remarks by Murphy. Murphy said some performers came from as far as the San Francisco area to participate in the festival.
Maggie Rodriguez, a member of Vandaleers concert choir, sang a Bach Cantata with the choir as part of Thursday’s festival, and had a solo in another movement.
“I’d done a couple songs by (Bach) in choir and I’ve heard some of his solo music, but I wouldn’t say I knew a whole lot,” Rodriguez said. “Definitely, in rehearsal and stuff (in preparation for the festival) we’ve been talking about his particular style.”
Rodriguez said she had to be solid on her solo because a flute soloist, as well as an orchestra that played a large range of chord progressions, had accompanied her.
“Bach uses a bunch of runs, it’s a lot quicker,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s a lot lighter because it’s Baroque music.”
Friday events include solo performance as well as a performance of Bach’s “Wedding Cantata,” and three lecturers about Bach compositions.
“All of these performers (and lecturers) are doing this work and preparation free of charge,” Murphy said. “Students have limited resources as far as money, and all the concerts are free. To get the level of talent they’ll be hearing — it’s unheard of.”
Shoko Nelson, UI graduate student in piano pedagogy, will begin the Friday performances in Haddock with her six-part interpretation of Bach’s Partita No. 2, BWV 826. Although Nelson has played classical piano for approximately 23 years, she said trying out for the festival was tough.
“You really need to learn this piece very well,” Nelson said. “It’s not like a (Frederic) Chopin piece — it’s not romantic — it’s Baroque style. It’s a different voice in each movement and you need to organize those things. It’s hard.”
Nelson said she had previously played pieces by Bach, but said the festival will provide performances of pieces she had never heard. Nelson also said she was excited for professor Kay Zavislak’s lecture of “Interpreting Toccata in D Major, BWV 912, on a Harpsichord.”
Other Friday lectures include “Frozen Improvisations: Bach’s Works for Unaccompanied Instruments as Artifacts of Improvisatory Practices” by lecturer John Lutterman and “Parody Techniques in J.S. Bach’s Pfingsttag Cantatas” by lecturer Michael Porter.
Nelson said the festival should expose students to something new, and even if a piece is well-known, the performer may have a different aspect or interpretation.
“It’s good to explore something yourself, even for (those who are) not music students,” Nelson said. “You may not know about Bach or understand classical music, but that doesn’t mean necessarily you can’t listen to it or enjoy it.”
Friday performances will conclude at the First Presbyterian Church with solo performances of the organ works of Bach.
“Obviously if Bach is still around today,” Rodriguez said. “...there is something important about him.”
As seen in Oct. 28 issue of The Argonaut.