Bach Festival

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The Bach Festival is a Kalamazoo College sponsored, community driven festival that seeks to foster appreciation for vocal, choral, and instrumental music. Founded in 1946 by Music Department chair Henry Overley, the warm reception received after the first event led to the creation of the Bach Festival Society to better support the event, granting the festival a budget and better organization. Originally consisting of a series of concerts over one weekend, it has expanded over the decades to a multi-weekend music extraordinaire with a wide variety of musical experiences, including the integral Christmas Concert which was added to the program in 1971. The other important part of the Festival is the Young Artists Concert, featuring around 20 highly gifted young musicians from the Midwest who are selected by a panel through an audition process. The main concert has typically ended with a performance of a major Bach piece, though since the 1990s there has been more effort to incorporate the work of other major composers. Additionally, there has been a shift away from classical music as folk, spiritual, and other diverse music has been incorporated into the program. Guest artists have been a key part of the festival since its inception.

There have been 6 directors of the Bach Festival: Henry Overley (1946-1961), Russell Hammar (1962-1984), Judith Breneman (1984-1990), Peter Hopkins (1990-1996), James Turner (1996-2017), and Chris Ludwa (2017-Present).


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    Bach Festival Rehearsal, 1997
    (Kalamazoo College, 1997) Anthony Dugal
    Members of the chorus rehearse for Bach Festival 1997. Director James Turner is pictured leading the chorus in the foreground.
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    Bach Festival Roll of Honor
    (Kalamazoo College, 1989) Unknown
    The caption on the back of the photo states, "Receiving recognition for outstanding service to the Kalamazoo Bach Festival by being named to the Festival Roll of Honor are left to right: Adrian and Eleanor VanderLinde, Lucille Mahaffie, Betty LeRoy, and Helene Carmen."
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    Judith Breneman
    (Kalamazoo College, 1988) Unknown
    Judith Breneman was the Director of the orchestra for Bach Festival 1988. This picture was featured on brochures for this years festival.
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    Gary Harris, 1976 Bach Festival
    (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03) Miles, Nickerson
    Gary Harris graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1963 and went on to earn a B.D. degree at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He also studied voice at the Eastman School of Music. Here he is shown holding a Bach music book while standing in the lobby of the Light Fine Arts building. Behind him is a portable organ which was built by William Mollema, Class of 1965. This photo was originally published in the April 1976 edition of the Kalamazoo College magazine.
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    Alan Paddle, 1976 Bach Festival
    (1976-03) Miles, Nickerson
    Alan Paddle, 1972 Kalamazoo College graduate, studied musicology at the Mozarteum Conservatory in Austria after his graduation, and made frequent solo performances at the Salzburg Music Festival during his time there. He is seen singing from a songbook at the 1976 Bach Festival. This photo was originally published in the April 1976 edition of the Kalamazoo College magazine.
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