Music professor Suzanne Duffy (upper right) performs Bach's "Musical Offering" seperately in a recording studio to adhere to health guidlines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved especially difficult for musicians and performers, as social distancing guidelines prohibit large in-person performances and mask mandates have prevented musicians from playing wind instruments around others. For the Cal Poly Music Department, however, the show must go on.   

Bach Week — an annual event celebrating the music of Johann Sebastian Bach which features concerts, music lectures and master classes — will continue virtually this year from Tuesday Jan. 19 through Saturday Jan. 23.

Admission to all presentations is free and links to attend will be posted to event listings on the Bach Week website.

The event will kick off on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7:00 p.m. with a lecture on Bach’s “Musical Offering” presented by music professor and co-director David Arrivée. The lecture will be followed by a performance of the sonata from the “Musical Offering” by Cal Poly faculty Suzanne Duffy, Emily Lazone, Laura Gaynon and Paul Woodring.

The event’s concerts, which were rehearsed in person and recorded in advance, posed many challenges for faculty and event organizers. 

Music professor Suzanne Duffy — who plays the flute in the “Musical Offering” — played in a recording studio away from the rest of the performers to adhere to health guidelines, as she was unable to play her instrument while wearing a mask.

“They put me in another room with a window,” Duffy said. “I could see [the other musicians] but, like a lot of things during coronavirus times, it’s not like being together.”

Concert recordings were challenging to piece together, as some musicians were unable to attend rehearsals in-person. This meant musicians had to submit their own recordings, which were then combined digitally with the rehearsal recordings, assistant music professor and co-director Scott Glysson said.

“Rather than us getting ready to present a live concert, we’ve already recorded that music and now we’re trying to digitally compile it,” Glysson said. “It’s incredibly hard to try to simulate any type of ensemble music virtually.”

Concert recordings will be broadcast along with the lectures and masterclasses, which will be hosted live. The masterclasses serve to give music students experience working with the guest artists involved in the event. 

The event will conclude with a performance of Bach’s “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden” by the Cal Poly Chamber Choir.

Music junior Zahra Rothschild performed the piece as a member of the choir and has attended Bach Week for the past two years. 

“It’s kind of a bummer that we can’t do it the way we used to, because performing for a live audience is the best, but I’m pretty thankful that we’re still doing it this year,” Rothschild said.

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