Bach Festival Society launches its 77th season

77th season kicks off

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  • | 8:38 a.m. October 19, 2011
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - The Bach Festival Society launches is 77th season of bringing world-class music to Winter Park this weekend.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - The Bach Festival Society launches is 77th season of bringing world-class music to Winter Park this weekend.
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There are certain pieces of classical music Bach Festival Society’s artistic director and conductor John Sinclair said nearly anyone can hear and immediately recognize in mere seconds.

After just a bar or two of music, a light bulb will go off, he said, and the person might not know where the song is from, or even where they’ve heard it before, but they know it.

Verdi’s “Requiem,” which the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra will perform to kick off its 77th season this weekend is one of those pieces, Sinclair said.

“It’s a humongously powerful and dramatic piece,” Sinclair said. “There’s no drama in the way of costumes or props — it’s in the sheer power of the arrangement.”

The 115-minute piece is just one of many the Bach Festival Society will put on in their 2011-2012 season. In addition to the society’s annual Christmas presentation, and a series of world-renown visiting artists on its program, for the first time in more than 40 years, Sinclair said, the ensemble will feature an all-Bach Bach Festival program composed of works by the entity’s namesake composer in the spring.

The choir, which Sinclair said has been called “a gem of the south” in being up to par with world-famous ensembles elsewhere in New York, London and Vienna by a New York Times arts columnist, will use this season to reflect back on their past, continued excellence in the present and insurance of its continuance in the future as one of the longest-running Bach festivals in the country.

The Bach Festival Society’s 2011-2012 season will kick off this weekend, Oct. 22 and 23, with performances of Verdi’s “Requiem” at Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College. For more information about the society, and to purchase tickets for the upcoming

season’s performances, visit

World-class choir

The year’s program, he said, will reemphasize how the Bach Festival Society has grown in both skill and repertoire since it was founded in 1935 as a daylong celebration of composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday.

“It started as just one day,” said Sinclair, who has conducted the ensemble since 1990. “Then it turned into a week, and now it’s a whole year’s worth of events.”

Since its formation, he said, the group has recruited the best musicians and vocalists from throughout Central Florida and beyond — with this year’s hailing from eight different counties in Florida. It is the quality of the ensemble and the music it plays, he said, that draws people in and keeps them coming back.

Beverly Slaughter, the provost for Brevard Community College’s Cocoa campus, is in her 37th season performing with the Bach Festival Society and is one of many members of higher education who perform in the choir.

“It’s one of those things where once you get a taste, it’s hard to leave,” she said. “Having such a great group of people singing great music, a choir of this caliber is hard to find.”

Unlike other Bach-related performance organizations, or famous choirs in general that are situated in cities such as New York and Vienna, Slaughter said being located in Winter Park and drawing the crowds and attention the Bach Festival Society does, is a testament to its quality.

“Unlike in other places, we are unique in that often we alone are the draw for people to come out to our shows,” she said.

Susan Lucher, a member of the choir for seven years and a Winter Springs resident, said the few times she’s been able to watch the ensemble she now plays in perform, it was like having a wave crash over her — because of the sheer power of the music.

“You realize we’re every bit as good as the choirs in Boston and New York and everywhere else,” she said. “It’s exciting to realize you’re part of something so good that keeps getting better.”

Past, present, future

To ensure the continuing success of the choir, as well as fine arts in Central Florida, the Bach Festival Society does many community-outreach programs throughout the year, Sinclair said.

From its close ties to Rollins College where it practices and performs to outreach programs with both Orange and Seminole county public schools, the organization does its best to give back to the community, Sinclair said.

“Our idea is to keep Bach youthful,” he said.

Stephen Cauley, a senior voice student at Rollins, will be one of a handful of students chosen to perform with the Bach Festival Society in this year’s program, which he said gives him an opportunity to network with local professionals while also performing at an exceedingly high level.

“But the Bach Festival brings great opportunities to all students here, not just those performing,” he said.

Visiting artists often hold master classes with local students.

“To have a professional musical organization on campus is such a unique experience for our students,” Sinclair said. “… It would be hard to give the number of students in the community that we touch, but it’s significant.”


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