Durango Bach Festival is back at St. Mark’s

Weeklong event will start Sunday

Grace Wilmes, playing violin in the 2011 Bach Festival, will perform in the Student Recital at 2 p.m. Sunday. Katzin Music will host a reception for the students and audience after the concert. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Paul Boyer

Grace Wilmes, playing violin in the 2011 Bach Festival, will perform in the Student Recital at 2 p.m. Sunday. Katzin Music will host a reception for the students and audience after the concert.

The way he’s made a reality of the dream that was the Durango Bach Festival, C. Scott Hagler is every bit the artistic powerhouse as old J.S. himself.

As Minister of Music and Arts at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Founder of 3rd Avenue Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to innovative fine arts programs, Hagler envisioned the Bach Festival six years ago.

“The idea for this festival kind of simmered in my head. Once I started mentioning it to people, I instantly had musicians calling me up wanting to participate,” Hagler said.

Featuring a week of events involving 125 local musicians, the festival offers a chance for both artists and arts enthusiasts to sink their teeth into all things Bach.

The festival will open Sunday with a student recital at St. Mark’s by music students of all ages, who were accepted based on recommendation from their music teachers. Openness to musicians of varied skill levels is just one aspect of the 3rd Avenue Arts philosophy and a mission Hagler holds dear.

“Last year we piloted our ‘Bach to School’ program. Grade-school music students came to St. Mark’s to learn about J.S. Bach and experience the rare opportunity to hear, touch and play three keyboard instruments (piano, harpsichord and organ), a marimba and mandolins,” Hagler said.

“This year, students from several schools will be bussed to St. Mark’s for a similar experience.”

With programs that bring classical music to new generations, it is easy to see why the small town of Durango remains a thriving arts center.

Next up is Bach’s Lunch, a unique five-day series of midday recitals featuring 30 minutes of music and a lunch in the Parish Hall. The lunch portion provides a chance to mix and mingle with the talented performers. The meet-and-greet format, which reinforces a strong sense of fellowship, is the product of deeply-held values treasured by both Hagler and St. Mark’s.

“Cheryl Birchard, the Parish Administrator, shares my heart for hospitality and has helped me take it to a new level,” Hagler said.

Birchard cooked and prepared all the food for the first three years of the festival and now oversees the catered menus. Touches like these make the Bach Festival a feast for both the body and the soul and represent the rare generosity of the Durango community.

The final two events, an Extended Works Concert and Festival Finale, promise to enchant attendees with highlights like a violin sonata accompanied by harpsichord, two Brandenburg Concertos, and the grand finale, Cantata 140 performed by the Durango Choral Society. Whew.

With so many musicians leaping to participate in this festival, and community members jazzed to soak up as many of the events as possible, it all begs the question: Why Bach?

“I bet you’d get a different answer from every person you ask,” Hagler said.

“Some might say the amazing complexity, or how he pushed the envelope of the music of the day, or the heart-tugging beauty. For me, his organ works are very challenging, and require a lot of work, study and attention to detail. When I was a teenager, it was the music of J.S. Bach, interpreted on synthesizers by Walter (and later Wendy) Carlos that kept me interested in classical music.”

With a versatile lineup and a buffet of events to choose from, all that’s left to do is dig in – there’s enough Bach to go around.

Chelsea Terris is a freelance writer and social media specialist. Reach her at chelseaterrisrose@hotmail.com.