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The Oregon Bach Festival explores the theme of ‘Musical Wanderlust’

The Oregon Bach Festival runs for two weeks starting June 30th.
Athena Delene
The Oregon Bach Festival runs for two weeks starting June 30th.

The Oregon Bach Festival begins Friday, June 30th at Beall Hall on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene with a sold-out performance of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat. The theme of the festival this year is “Musical Wanderlust”.

KLCC’s Rachael McDonald spoke with James Boyd, the director of Programming and Administration for the Oregon Bach Festival.

She asked him to describe some of the highlights of the season.

This season is inspired by Bach’s move to Leipzig (Germany) 300 years ago. And our opening night concert actually explores that topic of what happened in 1723 that led to Bach’s appointment. And then we go from there and we go on a bit of a journey. We decided to explore themes of travel and passage of time and so, for example, we’re going to perform the Alpine Symphony. We take a day trip in the Alps and we’re doing the Von Williams Sea Symphony, so we’ll head out into the water. So, it’s topics like that that are threaded throughout the festival over the next two weeks that we’ll explore, but all inspired by Bach.

What are some things that you’re excited about in terms of concerts or pieces of music that you’re really excited to hear?

Perhaps the most exciting thing right now is that we’ve already sold out two concerts. So, opening night and The Four Seasons are already at capacity. So, as a programmer, you can’t be more happy about that sort of result. But some of the programs that folks can still buy tickets to that I think are really exciting, I would say, the first is the Talbot Path of Miracles performance, which is this Sunday, the 2nd, here at Beall Hall. It’s absolutely gorgeous a cappella choral work and we’re going to have projections alongside it, which many in the community may not realize. So, I think it’ll be a really special experience and I hope that the community decides to choose that as one of their concerts this season.

And from looking at what’s on offering, it’s not all Bach, right? It’s not only different composers, but it’s also different genres of music?

It is. We like to say we’re a choral, orchestral festival that’s inspired by J.S. Bach. And that gives us the leeway to explore a lot of different repertoire, any music from Bach to the current day as long as we can attach it to those two things.

You mention this idea of going on a journey. Is that also the case in terms of different venues for seeing music throughout the community?

It certainly is. One of the things that we’re doing this season that I’m excited to see return is that we are going to Portland. So we’re taking the opening night Magnificat program to Kaul Auditorium on the Reed College campus. And the festival had a history of touring around the state and we’re trying to get back to that. So this is the first step. So, I think that’s really exciting to be back to the Portland community. And then, being in residence here at the University (of Oregon) and at the Hult Center and at performances at various churches and venues around town. We’re trying to be everywhere that we possibly can be.

And in terms of the pandemic and the ebbs and flows of the festival over the past few years, does if feel like, okay, we’re back to our stride, or is that still kind of ramping back up.

I think like any arts organization, that’s a question where you have, some parts of that response would say absolutely things are back the way they were, and other parts we’re still working on. And rebuilding audience is going to be a long term effort. Again, happy to have sellouts here on campus. That’s something that we didn’t experience once last year. So, that’s really exciting. But, especially downtown, The Hult Center, we want to get back to seeing 2,000 people in the hall. So, we’re going to do everything that we can over the next few seasons to build excitement for the festival and to get people to travel to Eugene and to come to those concerts.

Copyright 2023 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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