Baroque music is old but not stiff, according to music sophomore Zahra Rothschild. Rothschild is one of many students who partook in Bach Week, a six-day festival celebrating the music of the Baroque era and the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, who many consider one of the most prolific and compelling composers of all time.

“A lot of baroque music is actually about some really spicy topics, or at least really spicy emotions, that are completely relevant today,” Rothschild said.

Arranged by the College of Liberal Arts Music Department, Bach Week took place Jan. 20-25, with new lectures and performances each day. 

On Thursday, Rothschild performed “Come and Trip It” by George Frideric Handel in a vocal masterclass, coached by guest artist Matthew Goinz. Rothschild and her fellow musicians also participated in choir classes, rehearsals and private lessons. 

“The really cool thing is that students make music right next to professionals,” Symphony Director Dr. David Arrivée said. “It’s a tremendous learning experience for student musicians.”  

Professionals and students explored Bach’s impact on music through a series of concerts, masterclasses, lectures and recitals throughout each day of the past week. All of these events reached a crescendo in a finale concert Saturday night in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) . 

More than 300 people attended the symphony performance of Bach’s Mass in B-minor, which was a “monstrous-sized piece and one of the most important in music history,” Choral Director Dr. Scott Glysson said. 

Bach lived during the Enlightenment, a time of transition and contradiction which the musician embodies perfectly, according to Arrivée. 

“The music itself is seen as the pinnacle of the Baroque era and is fascinating on many levels, from the simply sonorous to the intellectual,” Arrivée said.

Bach Week allows students and faculty to present high quality performances of major repertoire, and fulfills the Music Department’s mission to provide the community with a rich, multifaceted and cohesive cultural experience, according to Glysson.

English professor Debora Schwartz, who attended the cello sonata chamber concert on Tuesday night and the Mass in B-minor on Saturday night, said Bach Week was a unifying force.

“What blew me away was [cellist] Hillary Clark, who played the entire suite from memory,” Schwartz said. “There was a standing ovation after she finished.” 

A choral singer herself, Schwartz has performed Mass in B-minor and said the performances were “transcendent.” Schwartz said she hopes students who are unfamiliar with classical music will attend next year’s Bach Week to find “incredibly powerful and beautiful music.” 

The professional pace of Bach Week preparation and watching one another perform difficult pieces bonds music students while connecting budding musicians with professionals and teachers in collaborative settings, Arrivée said.

Upcoming events for the Music Department include Jazz Ensemble concerts and Arab Music Ensemble, according to Glysson.

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