Friday, October 7, 2011

Caped Crusader Trots for Bach Week

When Richard Webster runs in Sunday's 26.2-mile Chicago Marathon costumed as Batman's sidekick Robin, every step will be music to the ears of Evanston's Bach Week Festival.
Webster, the festival's revered, long-time music director and a marathon veteran, runs for the challenge and satisfaction -- and also to raise money for the festival, which he's performed in since it began in 1974.
Donations from those sponsoring Webster's Chicago run are among the nonprofit festival's fundraising efforts.
Another is Sunday evening's "Bachtoberfest" party and concert at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston. Webster will serve as emcee for the festivities and organist in a "mini-concert" of Bach's music, after having run the marathon earlier that day.
His first marathon was the 1995 Chicago event. "Once I crossed that finish line, it was like walking through the gates of heaven. I was completely hooked," Webster recalls.
Since then, has completed 20 marathons, including seven Boston Marathons and marathons in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
For the past decade, he's made it a practice to run as a costumed character.  Besides Robin, his repertoire includes J. S. Bach, Paul Revere, the Easter Bunny (his first character), Abraham Lincoln, and the Cat in the Hat.
"It's fun for the fans. They love it, and it inspires me to run faster," Webster says.
Bach Week's "Caped Crusader" could also be called the "Caped Composer." Webster has written works for choir, organ, and organ and brass. They're available through a variety of publishers, including his own Advent Press imprint.
Anyone wishing to sponsor Webster's 2011 Chicago Marathon run can do so through the Bach Week Festival's website, which has complete details about Bachtoberfest: For information, call (847) 293-6686

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

‘Bachtoberfest’ Fundraiser to Sparkle With Wine and Beer Tastings October 9 in Evanston

Guests will sample beer, wine, and the music of Baroque composer J.S. Bach at the third annual ‘Bachtoberfest”  fundraiser 6:30–9 p.m. on  Sunday, October 9, 2011, at Nichols Concert Hall,
1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

The benefit will support the 2012 Bach Week Festival, the 39th consecutive edition of the Evanston-based festival, an annual rite of spring for Chicago-area music lovers since 1974.  The festival’s dates and programming will be announced at the benefit.

Tickets to the casual-dress fundraiser, which is open to the public, range from $50 to $150.  A $50 general admission ticket includes one drink; a $100 Bachtoberfest Patron ticket includes two drinks; and a $150 Bachtoberfest Champion ticket includes three drinks. Food, wine, and beer will have a German accent at this year’s Bachtoberfest. Planners promise "hearty hors d'oeuvres" of  German cheeses, meats, bread, and potato salad. For dessert: Black Forest cake and apple strudel.

Richard Webster will play Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Emcee for the evening’s proceedings will be the Bach Week Festival’s longtime music director and avid marathon runner Richard Webster, who will have run in the Chicago Marathon earlier that day to raise funds for the festival — costumed as Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

The evening’s live music will include selections from Bach’s “The Musical Offering,” with flutist Alyce Johnson, violinist Mathias Tacke, cellist Katinka Kleijn, and harpsichordist Jason Moy.  Violinist Dawn Gingrich and harpsichordist Moy will perform selections from Bach’s Sonata in E Major. 

Kleijn will also perform the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite in E-flat Major, and Moy will play movements from Bach’s Partita for Harpsichord in D Major.

As the evening’s organist, Webster will play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and will also provide accompaniment when young violinist Paul Christian and members of the Bach Week Festival Chorus perform two Bach arias.

The musical portion of the Bachtoberfest program will begin at 7:15 p.m.

Guests will be able to bid on silent auction items including vacation home getaways; beauty, wellness, and spa packages; subscription concert tickets; original art; electronics; and more. Also up for auction: a private guided tour of Boston's historic Trinity Church on Copley Square and dinner with the Bach Week Festival's Webster, who is also Trinity's music director.

For Bachtoberfest information and reservations, call 847-293-6686 or visit  Those wishing to benefit the festival by sponsoring Webster’s Chicago Marathon run can contribute through the festival website.

A musical tradition for nearly four decades, the Bach Week Festival is the Midwest’s premiere Baroque music festival. It features some of the country’s finest musicians, many of whom perform regularly with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Katinka Kleijn to Tackle a Tricky Cello Suite

In the words of Matti Bunzl, artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, cellist Katinka Kleijn “is one of those forces of nature people marvel about.”

A member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1995, Kleijn, a native of the Netherlands, is also a member of the prestigious International Contemporary Ensemble, the guitar-cello duo Relax Your Ears, and the progressive rock band District 97.

She is also an audience favorite at the Bach Week Festival, where she will be returning May 1 at 7:30 p.m. to perform Bach's technically tricky Suite in E-flat Major, BWV 1010.

She says the Suite is “very special” to her. “I think it might originally have been an idea for a harpsichord piece that was transcribed later into a Suite for cello. This is most obvious to me in the prelude. This thought makes me listen to the Suite in a more polyphonic way. Even though it might seem I play mostly one line, there are many different voices and voice leadings in the piece. In the Cello Suites these voices are often indicated rather than actually written out, so they’re a lot of fun to perform.“

The E-flat Suite makes its own demands on a cellist.  “It’s in a key that is not very natural to the instrument," Kleijn explained in an email interview. "Easy keys would be A, D, G, or C, because you can use the 'open' strings. This means you don’t have to press down your finger to get that note to sound. There is no E-flat open string, so you have to finger almost every note. To play an E-flat major scale on the cello, you have to use a lot of ‘stretching’ in the left hand, which can get tiring.”
Kleijn says she’s loved Bach since childhood. “As soon as I could use the bow, I would play through the Suites every day and just have a great time.”

In addition to enjoying her solo turns at the Bach Week Festival, she says the festival “has made one of my childhood dreams come true — to play continuo in one of the Passions! To play continuo in Bach is an amazing experience. Because of the polyphonic nature of Bach’s music, the continuo part is just as important as any other part. In fact, you have a feeling that you are part of the very machine that drives everything that is going on.

“Bach’s music is so timeless in its beauty and structure that it never ever ceases to interest you."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Soprano Rosalind Lee Savors the Unexpected in Bach's Music

Soprano Rosalind Lee of Oak Park will be making her Bach Week Festival debut April 29 in a duet with tenor Hoss Brock in Bach’s Cantata No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden ("Christ Lay in the Bonds of Death").

She will be singing this part in concert for the first time.

“One of the things that I particularly enjoy about the movement is how the two voices weave together,” she says. There’s also “an unexpected harmonic turn in the duet” that she finds engaging. She savors the element of unpredictability in Bach’s music, which “makes you sit up and listen. That's part of the magic of Bach,” she says. “I love being able to convey that feeling of excitement to the audience."

She adds, “I'm really looking forward to working with [festival music director] Richard Webster for the first time, and I can't wait for the concerts!”

Bach’s music has figured prominently in her development as a singer.  One of her first scholarships was to the Interlochen National Music Camp when she was in high school. For her audition, she sang "Schafe k
önnen sicher weiden" from the cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208.   

She sang the echo duet from the Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248, with Kathleen Battle with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Raymond Leppard.  She performed the cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51, at the 2010 Handel Week Festival in Oak Park, where in recent years she’s been featured in cantatas for solo soprano.

Baroque music has been a constant in her career.  She sang the role of Venus in the opera La purpura de la Rosa by Tomás Torrejón y Velasco with the Bloomington Early Music Festival. She performed the soprano solos in the Vivaldi Gloria with the Indianapolis Symphony.

Lee says “a huge influence” in her musical life was her choir director at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Robert Fuller.

“I was terribly spoiled by the level of music-making I was able to participate in even before I entered college," she says. During my senior year, we performed the Mozart Coronation Mass, and I was able to sing the “Agnus Dei” solo.  Shortly after that, we went on a field trip to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Opera.  I remember Mr. Fuller leaning over to me during "Dove sono" and pointing out how Mozart had used part of the same tune for the “Agnus Dei” solo I had sung earlier.

“That year, he also had just four of us sing the cantata Aus der Tiefen, BWV 131, on one of our concerts.  These wonderful solo experiences really stuck with me and helped fuel the fire under me to become a professional singer.”

Lee recently appeared with the Chicago Symphony Chorus in Verdi’s Otello and Berlioz’s Lélio with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at New York’s Carnegie Hall. She also sang in the chorus in last week’s Chicago Bach Project staging of the St. Matthew Passion.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Video Conveys Bach Week Magic

Bach Week Festival board member Mary Mumbrue recently enlisted the help of Burlingham Productions of Evanston, Ill., to create a concise and touching video that conveys a sense of what makes the Bach Week Festival unique among the Chicago area's many first-rate musical offerings.

The six-minute clip contains interviews with music director Richard Webster and singers from the Bach Week Festival Chorus, plus rehearsal footage.

The talented father and son team of Bill and Elliot Burlingham donated their services for the video. Please visit their company's website.

The video can also be streamed on the home page of the Evanston Round Table newspaper. Scroll down to the video player at the bottom of the page to watch "Bach in Evanston."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Vintage' Fundraiser Harvests $5,300

Seventy-seven guests attended the "Bachtoberfest" fall fundraiser for Evanston’s 2011 Bach Week Festival, which featured wine tastings, appetizers, and, of course, the music of baroque composer J. S. Bach.

The after-hours event October 10 at Schaefer’s Wines, Foods & Spirits in Skokie raised net proceeds of $5,300 for the festival to be held April 29 and May 1, 2011, at Nichols Concert Hall of the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston.  Funds came from ticket sales, donations, and sponsorship of festival music director Richard Webster’s run in the Chicago Marathon earlier that day.

Two acclaimed young classical singers from the East Coast — in town to run the Chicago Marathon — performed at "Bachtoberfest" with veteran Bach Week Festival musicians.

Emily Hindrichs, a Boston-based soprano, and Robin Flynn, a New York-based mezzo-soprano, sang the duet “Wir eilen ” (“We hasten”) from Bach’s Cantata No. 78 and composer Gioachino Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” a comical encore piece whose lyrics consist of the Italian word for “meow.”

Other works performed at "Bachtoberfest" were Bach’s Goldberg Variations, arranged for string trio, with violinist Mathias Tacke, violist Melissa Kirk, and cellist Kenneth Olsen; Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903, with harpsichordist Jason Moy; and Bach’s Cello Suite in E-flat, BWV 1010, with cellist Samuel Nordlund.

For the finale, Bach Week Festival Chorus members sang Baroque and Renaissance drinking songs.

Enjoy this slide show of photos from the event:

Did you attend "Bachtoberfest"? What did you think? Please leave a comment below.