The four-day Chico Bach Festival celebrates its 10th year
“He’s the dean of composers! He’s so monumental in Western art music,” offered David Scholz passionately. “If you had to choose the greatest composer of all time, a lot of people would choose Bach.”
Forgive Scholz if he gets a little excited when it comes to talking about Johann Sebastian Bach, the famous German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist and violinist of the Baroque period. Scholz, the 39-year-old director of choral activities at Chico State, is also director of the Chico Bach Festival.
The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with four days of performances by Chico State music students and regional talents such as violinist Matt Raley, vocalists Daun Weiss and Dara Scholz (Scholz’s wife, who teaches in Chico State’s theater department), harpsichordists Bob Bowman and Sandra Wright, organist Jeff Cooper, oboe player Susie Lundberg and cellist Hans Hoffer.
The festival begins March 24, and wraps up three days later with an afternoon concert featuring Chico State music professor emeritus Dr. David Rothe (pronounced “Rota”) on the university’s famed Centennial Pipe Organ. Rothe founded the Bach Festival and was its director until his retirement in 2008. This year’s festival also marks the 20th anniversary of the Centennial Organ.
“In honor of his bringing this concert series to Northern California, I thought it would be great to invite him to the Bach Festival,” Scholz said of Rothe’s appearance this year.
Rothe’s program will include Bach’s well-known Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor and a poignant choral prelude, “Erbarm dich mein,” composed by Bach and German-Danish organist/composer Dietrich Buxtehude. Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C major is also on tap, in addition to an assortment of other organ pieces, including 17th-century Italian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi’s contemplative Toccata for the Elevation.
Rothe will also talk about the history of the Centennial Organ—a curious, lively story involving Munetaka Yokota, a man who “just showed up” in Chico, Scholz said, and “apprenticed a bunch of people in the community on how to build an organ.”
Scholz also noted that the festival features a variety of music from the Baroque era—Bach’s era: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be all Bach.”
Scholz said he is excited about the festival-opening, Thursday-afternoon concert featuring university music students, titled A Baroque Extravaganza.
“This is an opportunity to show what is really great about the university,” Scholz said glowingly of the student-performers.
“The Friday evening concert, I think, is going to be extremely interesting,” Scholz said of the Germans Galore concert highlighting regional performers, along with the university’s Chamber Singers. “It’s an eclectic mix of performance genres—violin, choir, vocalists, oboe, organ, cello, harpsichord. … There is also a wide range of composers, some very well-known, like Bach, and also some that people will not be familiar with at all.”
New to this year’s festival, said Scholz, is a partnership with the Suzuki Music Teachers Association of California’s fourth annual local Bach recital, which will be held at the Trinity Methodist Church this year on March 26.
“For the past three years, they have done their own Bach recital,” he said, “featuring young players 5 to 18 years old playing strings, harpsichord, piano.” This year, the young performers’ talents will be highlighted as part of the Bach Festival program. The free event is aptly titled Going for Baroque: A New Generation.
“The music of Bach has been around and has been performed continuously for 250 years,” said Scholz, who also performs every summer, with his wife, as a vocalist at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Ore., “and it will last for eternity.
“I get really excited talking about these things,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity for me to put this festival together.”