Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival – ‘B’ There!

featured soloists performing at last year's Bach Festival
Paul Whelan, bass; Kenneth Gayle, tenor; Carrie Stevens, mezzo soprano; and Madeline Bender, soprano, were featured soloists for Mozart’s "Requiem in D Minor" at last year’s Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.
Photo by Jim Bishop

No, it’s not "Be Bop a Lula," But Be assured, there’s Boundless Beautiful music in store as the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival Begins its 13th season this summer at Eastern Mennonite University, June 12-19.

Under the artistic direction of Kenneth J. Nafziger, professor of music at EMU, this year’s program will combine the dazzling masterworks of prolific German composer Johann Sebastian Bach with the music of other "Bs" – Brahms, Bartok, Berstein, Britten, Boccherini, Bruch and Berlioz.

"Many people assume classical music is made up of three famous ‘Bs’ – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, Dr. Nafziger noted. "So why not find an interesting collection of music by composers whose last names begin with the letter B?

"The choice of Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 9’ was in response to numerous and repeated requests for this well-loved work to be performed at a festival sometime," he said.

Nafziger pointed out that this is the 200th centennial of the death of Italian composer Luigi Boccherini. "With little likelihood of featuring his festival any time soon, I chose to find a way to include him this year," he said. "Let’s see: what do Beethoven and Boccherini have in common? Not much, actually!

Bach and some other Bs

"The only point of unity was the initial B, which, fortuitously is also the first initial of him for whom this festival is named. Aha! How about Bach and other Bs? I would like to claim this as a stroke of genius, but it really was an accident!"

The opening concert, at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 12, in EMU’s Lehman Auditorium, will feature Bach’s "Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord in A Minor" with Pedro Aponte, flute; Joan Griffing, violin; and Bradley Lehman, harpsichord. Other "Bs" on the program are Leonard Bernstein’s "Missa Brevis," Bela Bartok’s "Romanian Folk Dances" and Benjamin Britten’s "Simple Symphony."

Major festival concerts will be held 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 17 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18. The delectable menu will include the appetizing Bach’s "Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major"; "Double Concerto for Clarinet and Viola and Orchestra" by Max Bruch; leading to the main course, Beethoven’s "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor" with the festival chorus and orchestra and soloists.

Sandwiched between the main festival concerts will be daily chamber music programs noon-1 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church with a variety of programs offered throughout the week. A Saturday (June 18) "Concert for Families" will feature a mother-daughter choir directed by Julia White.

The festival will conclude with the annual Leipzig Service 10 a.m. June 19 in Lehman Auditorium, often cited as the highlight of the week for many attendees. The program recreates an 18th century worship service at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Leipzig, Germany, where Bach was cantor and composed a cantata for each week’s service.

The Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival is sponsored in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the Arts Council of the Valley.

Advance tickets to the three concerts are available from the EMU box office, 540-432-4582. More information on the Bach Festival is available at