Known for her captivating spirit on and off the podium, Deanna Tham will serve as guest conductor of EMU’s 32nd Annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival from June 9-16, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Deanna Tham.)

EMU to host 32nd Annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival

Dubbed “a jewel in Harrisonburg’s crown” by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the 32nd Annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival—a program of Eastern Mennonite University—will run from June 9-16, 2024. The weeklong festival features a total of 16 pay-what-you-can and free on- and off-campus concerts and talks by more than 60 national and international professional orchestral musicians and soloists at locations ranging from EMU’s Lehman Auditorium and Martin Chapel to Asbury United Methodist Church, Massanutten Regional Library and Pale Fire Brewing Company in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia.

EMU faculty pianist David Berry, artistic director of the Bach Festival, will perform in Dohnányi’s Sextet in C Major in Festival Concert I.

Works center around the festival theme of “Unity” and range from J.S. Bach’s Wedding Cantata to Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs to Valerie Coleman’s Umoja: Anthem of Unity and Ernst von Dohnányi’s Sextet in C Major, Op. 37, said Bach Festival Artistic Director and EMU Music Program Director David Berry, a prominent pianist who will perform in the latter work in Festival Concert I.

“This year’s festival includes works that explore themes we can all relate to in our humanity, composers that are underrepresented and we don’t get a chance to hear, and pieces that bring together various different elements to create something entirely new like Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World,’” shared Berry. “I’m thrilled to welcome audiences to experience this year’s festival featuring an absolutely stellar lineup of musicians from around the world, including artists from EMU, JMU, Shenandoah Conservatory, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, as well as rising star performers from the Shenandoah Valley.”

EMU’s own Benjamin Bergey is assistant conductor of the Bach Festival.

Featured artists include guest conductor Deanna Tham, associate conductor of the Oregon Symphony and music director of the Union Symphony Orchestra, who will conduct Festival Concerts II and III; Benjamin Bergey, assistant professor of music at EMU and conductor of EMU’s Orchestra, Chamber Singers, and University Choir; Berlin-based soprano Sara Duchovnay, a “dynamic and expressive” vocalist who sings with “warmth and luster” (OperaWire); Penelope Shumate, who sings soprano solos with “appealing bell-like clarity and surpassing sweetness” (The New York Times); and Mexican American violinist Alejandra Switala, a top prize winner at the 2023 Sphinx Competition in Detroit, Michigan.

Other highlights include Open Mic Night at Pale Fire, which offers listeners the opportunity to hear—and mingle with—festival performers in a casual setting, and a free talk titled “Harry T. Burleigh, Antonín Dvořák, and the Symphony from the New World” by music historian, author and EMU alumna Jean Snyder ‘63 on Thursday, June 13 at 4 p.m. at Massanutten Regional Library.

At the intersection of harmony, humanity and nature, the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival gathers internationally-recognized artists and inquisitive audiences to celebrate the life and joy of great music. We like to say “Bach is just the beginning” to share our deep appreciation of the breadth of work influenced by the musical inventions of Bach. The festival began under the artistic direction of Ken J. Nafziger, professor emeritus of EMU Music, in 1993.

For tickets to the Bach Festival, visit Tickets to Festival Concerts I, II and III at EMU’s Lehman Auditorium and to the Baroque Faculty Concert at Asbury United Methodist Church are pay what you can from $10-40 and free to college students; tickets to Festival Concerts I, II and III include pre-concert talks. Noon concerts at Asbury United Methodist Church and other on- and off-campus concerts are free for all.

Join the Discussion on “EMU to host 32nd Annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *