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).

Recent Submissions

  • Bach Festival Rehearsal, 1997 

    Anthony Dugal (Kalamazoo College, 1997)
    Members of the chorus rehearse for Bach Festival 1997. Director James Turner is pictured leading the chorus in the foreground.
  • Bach Festival Roll of Honor 

    Unknown (Kalamazoo College, 1989)
    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, ...
  • Judith Breneman 

    Unknown (Kalamazoo College, 1988)
    Judith Breneman was the Director of the orchestra for Bach Festival 1988. This picture was featured on brochures for this years festival.
  • Gary Harris, 1976 Bach Festival 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    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 ...
  • Alan Paddle, 1976 Bach Festival 

    Miles, Nickerson (1976-03)
    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 ...
  • Lisa Becker Smith, 1976 Bach Festival 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    1975 Kalamazoo College graduate Lisa Becker Smith is seen here rehearsing for the Bach Festival. A lyric coloratura soprano, she was a featured soloist with the College Singers and Motet Choir and a member of the Bach ...
  • Susan Fletcher, 1976 Bach Festival 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    Susan Fletcher graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1973, and during her time there performed in the operas "Dido and Aeneas," "The Telephone," and "The Boor." She was the 1971 Bach Young Artists winner. She is seen here ...
  • Calvert Johnson, 1976 Bach Festival 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    Calvert Johnson was a Young Artists finalist who graduated from Kalamazoo College magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. He was also a Fulbright Fellow that studied in France at the Toulouse Conservatoire. He is shown ...
  • Calvert Johnson and Susan Fletcher 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    Calvert Johnson, 71', and Susan Fletcher, 73' are seen being applauded following a Bach Festival performance. Dr. Russell Hammar stands watching in the foreground on the left of the photo, and Assistant Professor Barry ...
  • The End of the Finale 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    Russell Hammar, Director of the Bach Festival, is shown signaling to the Orchestra and Choir at the end of the show. In 1976, the Bach Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary by featuring Kalamazoo College alumni in its ...
  • Bach Festival Noon Concert 

    Miles, Nickerson (Kalamazoo College, 1976-03)
    In 1976 a series of noon concerts were presented by alumni as part of the Bach Festival. The concerts took place in the lobby of the Light Fine Arts building. Three unknown performers can be seen playing the clarinet.
  • Bach Festival Promoters 

    Douglas Lyttle (Kalamazoo College, 1965)
    Originally published in the February 1965 alumni magazine (p. 9), this photo shows three men and three women gathered around a typewriter at a table full of programs. The caption reads, "Busily promoting the Bach Festival ...
  • Bach Festival Rehearsal, 1964 

    Unknown (Kalamazoo College, 1964)
    Members of the Bach Festival chorus rehearse in Stetson Chapel, 1964.
  • 1963 Bach Festival Orchestra 

    Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo College, 1963)
    A photograph of the 1963 Bach Festival Orchestra. Concertmaster Voldemar Rushevics can be seen seated on the left, closest to the middle.
  • The Performance of the St. Matthew Passion 

    Unknown (1959)
    Originally published in the 1959 Boiling Pot (page 89), this photograph is captioned, "The performance of the St. Matthew Passion." The orchestra is seen performing as the crowd looks on. Henry Overley can be see conducting ...
  • Madame Jambor and the Sunday Concert 

    Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo College, 1959)
    The Bach Festival concert held on Sunday, March 15, 1959 featured Madame Agi Jambor, a famous pianist from Hungary. Jambor is playing the piano surrounded by a few other seated performers as the crowd watches. This photo ...
  • Dr. Henry Overley 

    Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo College, 1959)
    Originally published in the 1959 Boiling Pot (page 89), this photograph is captioned, "Henry Overley, Bach Festival founder and director." Dr. Overley is leading a rehearsal for the Bach Festival.
  • Bach Festival Rehearsal, 1959 

    Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo College, 1959)
    Dr. Henry Overley leads a small group rehearsal in Stetson Chapel for the Bach Festival. Originally published on page 88 of the 1959 Boiling Pot yearbook.
  • Voldemars Rushevics and Harry Ray 

    David Fischer (Kalamazoo College, 1959)
    This photo of the 13th annual Bach Festival held in March 1959 was originally published in the 1959 Boiling Pot yearbook (page 89). It was captioned "Messrs. Rushevics and Ray perform in Bach's Sonata No. 6." Rusehevics ...
  • 1951 Bach Festival Performers 

    Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo College, 1951)
    Soprano Gretchen Garnett stands alongside Dorothy Lane who is seated at her harpsichord. Dr. Henry Overley, the director of the Bach Festival, stands at right. The Fifth Annual Bach Festival took place in March, 1951.

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