Second Portland Bach Festival Offers Even More
by Christopher Hyde
The first Portland Bach Festival, in June of 2016, was one of the most successful premieres in recent Maine history. In fact, it was so popular that it was difficult to find seats at some of the smaller venues.
This year’s festival, June 17-25, will maintain the world-class quality of solo and ensemble performance, while adding some new features intended to broaden its audience, according to associate artistic director Emily Isaacson, who with Director and violinist Lewis Kaplan founded and co-directed the first programs.
The festival will open with one of its most unusual concerts: “Bachtails” at the newly renovated Bayside Bowl on Alder Street in Portland. The facilities are large and complex, with room for 15 different 15-minute performances in various areas, including the rooftop, beginning at around 5:00 p.m. with “Musical Games for Kids.”
Visitors can hear all of the performances, or just one or two, Isaacson said, while enjoying cocktails, wine and beer, the last of which H.L. Mencken declared “the universal solvent for the music of old J.S. Bach.” Admission is free but drinks and food are not.
“The less formal setting for hearing early music is not that unusual,” Isaacson pointed out, since much of Bach’s non-liturgical music was meant to be heard in an intimate social setting rather than a concert hall.
The second public concert will be on Sunday, June 18, 6:30 p.m., at St. Mary’s Church in Falmouth. Tickets will be required for the concert inside the church, but it will also be broadcast on a large screen outside for the general public. “Bach on a Blanket” will feature the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, in F Major, and the Cantata “Herz und mund,“ with soloists, the Oratorio Chorale and the Festival Orchestra conduced by Lewis Kaplan.
Both free concerts are an extension of last year’s popular “Bach and Beer” party at Ocean Gateway, which this year will be on Monday, June 19.
Bach Virtuosi Institute, June 14-25
In what Isaacson believes is the first program of its kind in the country, exceptional students from around the world will attend a twelve-day program to refine their craft, focus on the performance practice of Baroque music, and immerse themselves in the music of Bach and those inspired by his work.
The Bach Virtuosi Institute focuses on learning through performance. Fellows will perform alongside distinguished international musicians in an intimate, collegial atmosphere. Limited enrollment (10 students this year) allows all participants significant coaching and performance opportunities. Selected Fellows will perform in PBF concerts, Bach Virtuosi concerts, at “Bach and Beer,” and at outreach concerts in the community.
All participants receive a full scholarship including tuition, room and board and stipend
For the ultimate in outreach, there will be a Cantata Sing-Along at St. Mary’s on Wednesday, June 21, with soloists and piano accompaniment to the early Cantata “Christ lag in Totes Banden (BWV 4).
For further information about individual concerts, visit www.portlandbachfestival.org. Advance tickets, including season passes, are still available but they are going fast. The first festival was sold out.
Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at email@example.com.