The Rapidian

Symphony celebrates music of J.S. Bach at eleventh Grand Rapids Bach Festival

The eleventh biennial celebration of the music of J.S. Bach, founded by Linn Maxwell Keller, opens March 5 with multiple events in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Symphony presents the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival, March 5-11, in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Symphony presents the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival, March 5-11, in Grand Rapids. /Terry Johnston

Underwriting support from:

2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival

  • Grand Rapids Art Museum Recital, 101 Monroe Center, 2 p.m. Sunday, March 5. Free Admission
  • American Guild of Organists Recital with organist Isabelle Demers at Mayflower Congregational Church, 2345 Robinson Road SE, 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5. Free Admission
  • Creative Keyboards welcomes organist Isabelle Demers and harpsichordist Ian Watson at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, for music for keyboards at Central Reformed Church, 10 College Ave. NE at Fulton Street. Tickets for Creative Keyboards are $15 general admission, $5 students.
  • Celebrated Cantatas features soprano Jeanine De Bique, alto Michael Maniaci, tenor Ross Hauck and baritone Stephen Bryant for an evening of arias for solo voice and orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9, in First United Methodist Church, 227 E. Fulton St. Tickets for Celebrated Cantatas are $15 general admission, $5 students
  • Joyful Bach: Choral Celebration features the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses for an evening of highlights from J.S. Bach’s choral music including “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” from Cantata No. 147 at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Christ Chapel at Cornerstone University, 1001 E. Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids. A freewill offering will be collected for Joyful Bach. 
  • For more information, call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to the Grand Rapids Bach Festival's website.
David Lockington, Music Director Laureate of the Grand Rapids Symphony, leads the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival.

David Lockington, Music Director Laureate of the Grand Rapids Symphony, leads the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival. /Terry Johnston

Tenor Ross Hauck, a past performer with the Grand Rapids Symphony, returns for the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival

Tenor Ross Hauck, a past performer with the Grand Rapids Symphony, returns for the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival /Terry Johnston

Linn Maxwell Keller loved the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, as many people do, but she did more than just listen.

The singer and actress who graced stages from Grand Rapids to the grand opera houses of major European cities launched the Grand Rapids Bach Festival in 1997 to bring the music of Bach to West Michigan.

It was an immediate success.

“We said, we’ll do it once and see what happens,” Keller told The Grand Rapids Press in 2005. “Then people started saying, when’s the next one?”

The next one, the eleventh biennial festival, opens this week.

The 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival opens Sunday, March 5 with a week of events celebrating the life and music of one of the greatest composers in the history of classical music.

Keller, who died in June 2016, will be remembered during this year’s festival led by David Lockington, Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music Director Laureate.

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival, presented by the Grand Rapids Symphony, welcomes guest organist Isabelle Demers and harpsichordist Ian Watson to Grand Rapids and features solos by Grand Rapids Symphony’s concertmaster and violinist James Crawford, principal flutist Christopher Kantner, and principal oboist Ellen Sherman.

The culminating concert, titled Joyful Bach: Choral Celebration on March 11, features highlights of several of Bach’s cantatas including “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” from Cantata No. 147. Soprano Jeanine De Bique, alto Michael Maniaci, tenor Ross Hauck and baritone Stephen Bryant join the Grand Rapids Symphony for highlights from four of Bach’s cantatas. Music includes the opening chorale from Bach’s Magnificat and “Christians be Joyful” from the Christmas Oratorio.

The 2017 festival, with concerts in area churches, at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and at Cornerstone University’s Christ Chapel, continues under David Lockington, who became music director in 2013 when the Grand Rapids Bach Festival became an affiliate of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

“We’re thrilled to share the transformational power of Bach’s music in an array of traditional and unexpected settings, said Lockington, who conducts three programs during the festival.

Expect some surprises during the 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival.

Last week, Love’s Ice Cream at the Downtown Market unveiled a Bach Fest-inspired flavor of ice cream, Bach-lava Strudel, a harmonious triad of brown butter ice cream, spiced apples, and bits of pastry.

Visitors passing through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport on March 8 will be greeted by the music of J.S. Bach and others performed by the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Woodwind Quintet.

Flutist Chris Kantner, oboist Sarah Peterson, clarinetist Suzy Bratton, hornist Erich Peterson and bassoonist Victoria Olson will play light classical music plus music by Bach from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Ford Airport’s Grand Hall adjacent to its food court.

Many area churches will include the music of Bach in Sunday services on March 5 and March 12.

The 2017 Grand Rapids Bach Festival also will remember its founder and champion, Linn Maxwell Keller, who sang in major Bach Festivals throughout the United States, including the Oregon Bach Festival under Helmut Rilling, as well as at Bach festivals in Carmel and Rochester

Under Keller’s leadership, the Grand Rapids Bach Festival was launched in 1997 as a three-day celebration of the music of Bach. Keller engaged German organist, scholar and conductor Karl Hochreither, a noted authority on Bach’s church music, to serve as music director for several of the early festivals.

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival will go on without its founder.

"It's established as long as the people of Grand Rapids want this festival," Keller told The Grand Rapids Press in 2003. "As long as people are blessed by it and enjoy the music, it looks like we'll be around for a while."

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