Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-05-23
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



CLASSICAL MUSIC At 45, Bach Week Festival pays homage to German maestro
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Catey Sullivan

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When Richard Webster launched the Bach Week Festival in 1974, he didn't expect that nearly half a century later it would still be going strong.

"We basically got a bunch of friends together and said, 'Hey, let's play some Bach,'" recalled Webster. So along with some friends from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Webster and Northwestern professor/organ maestro Karl Paukert began the annual celebration of the iconic German composer.

This year's Bach Fest runs April 27-May 4, at venues in Evanston and Chicago. It includes four full concerts featuring a variety of solo and ensemble pieces. For Webster, keeping the festival alive since the Nixon administration has not been without challenges.

When Paukert decamped in 1975 for a post as curator of music arts at the Cleveland Art Museum, Webster kept Bach Fest going. When Webster and his husband moved to Boston in the early 2000s, he kept Bach Fest going, orchestrating the logistics from Boston while "commuting" to Chicago several times a year.

Every year, Webster runs in the Chicago Marathon to raise funds for Bach Fest. And every year, hundreds turn out for the Fest, primed to celebrate the man Webster calls "the father of Western music."

Webster has yet to run out of pieces to showcase from Bach's astonishingly large body of work.

"There's so much we haven't even touched yet," said Webster from the Boston home he shares with husband of 11 years, Bart Dahlstrom. "Bach's compositions are in the thousands. He's been copied and transcribed countless times. He wrote for every conceivable medium in his day—solos, cello suites, chamber music [and] sacred music. I can't a think of another composer that has the inexhaustibility of repertoire that Bach has."

Bach demands impeccable technique; one cannot smooth mistakes over with the damper pedal or distract from them with hyper-dramatic shifts in dynamics; both are functions of a piano, and pianos didn't exist in Bach's time. The harpsichord was the favored instrument. Pedals to take the music from forte to pianissimo didn't exist.

Webster's primary instrument is the organ. He started taking lessons at 14, majored in organ at Northwestern University and is currently the music director for Boston's historic Trinity Church in Copley Square.

"Organists love Bach, " Webster said. "We all tend to start with him. There's something real, something so honest about his music. It's as demanding as it is beautiful," he said.

In his enthusiasm for Bach's mathematically precise harmonies and intricate interplay among musicians, Webster isn't above shading at Bach's contemporaries.

"I suppose maybe Vivaldi wrote as much as Bach. But Vivaldi sounds the same after a while," Webster said. "You look at the harmonic structure of Bach—it's so complex and sophisticated. He changed the course of Western music," Webster said.

Like many rock concerts, Bach Fest is a mix of superhits ( The Brandenburg Concerto ) and lesser known gems ( the "Singet dem Herren" motet for double choir, cello, bass violin and harpsichord ) and even the odd world premiere. ( This year, the Fest will feature a new work by Marcos Balter, inspired by Bach's cello suites. )

The music world has changed significantly since Webster started the Bach Fest, but the fest itself stays true to its baroque-era roots. But while Bach never composed ( or performed ) on a piano, Bach Fest is not a piano-free zone. Webster doesn't limit its performances to strictly period instruments such as the harpsichord.

''Purists would be out for blood," Webster said. Purists would also look askance at the world premiere holding down a centerpiece spot in this year's Bach Fest.

"I cannot wait to hear that new work," Webster said of Balter's premiere. The Fest is bookended by choral pieces—opening with a choral hymn, followed by Webster performing Bach's organ Fugue in E-flat Major. The finale concert features the "Singet dem Herren" chorale. In between, Bachophiles will find an eclectic wealth of music.

"Bach inspired so many musicians," Webster said. "I would tell people to come celebrate—and sit close. We've got some of the bestr musicians in the world and they're performing in intimate venues. This is a chance to really connect to the music. "

Bach Week Festival runs April 27-May 4. Tickets are $10-$30 per concert, or $80 for all four concerts. For more information, go to

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

House-music fest May 26 in Chicago 2018-05-23 - The Chicago House Music Festival will take place Saturday, May 26, 1-9 p.m., at the Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Throughout the day, ...

Gay News

'Queer Eye' co-host helps Lowe's, GE roll out product line 2018-05-22 - Design specialist and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy star Bobby Berk pulled into Chicago on May 16 to help Lowe's Home Improvement/Hardware ...

Gay News

BENT NIGHTS Andrew W.K. 2018-05-22 - Up until last year, I found it extremely difficult to take rocker Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier—otherwise known as Andrew W.K.—seriously. I had seen ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Donald Glover, Adore Delano, Jason Statham, Jennifer Aniston 2018-05-22 - Donald Glover has backed suggestions that his Star Wars character is pansexual—despite a reported zero same-sex interactions on screen, according to PinkNews. Fans ...

Gay News

OUT AND PROUD! A Rainbow Celebration with Melissa Young June 3 2018-05-17 - Melissa Young's tour of the LGBTQ movement through song and comedy returns with a little help from Chicago's best Cabaret stars at the ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Flies! The Musical! 2018-05-16 - Playwright: Cindy O'Connor ( music ), Larry Todd Cousineau ( book and lyrics ) At: Pride Films and Plays at The Broadway, Pride ...

Gay News

Taste of Chicago headliners announced 2018-05-16 - Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ( DCASE ) have announced the full music ...

Gay News

Friends to host benefit for acclaimed songwriter Marsha Malamet in LA 2018-05-15 - Clifford Bell, Hillary Rollins and Lampkin Music Group present: "Love Don't Need a Reason: A Benefit for Marsha Malamet" on Tuesday, May ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Charlize Theron, Mapplethorpe, Karamo Brown, ABBA 2018-05-15 - On Watch What Happens Live, Charlize Theron confirmed that an Atomic Blonde 2 is in development, Deadline noted. The Academy Award-winning actress simply ...

Gay News

SUMMER MUSIC PREVIEW Chicago to host Janelle, Sam Smith and much more 2018-05-15 - Chicago is heating up in the next few months, with tons of concerts coming to town, including outdoor festivals featuring multiple musicians for ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.