Bach & Beyond Festival to mark 18th year at Opera House

The Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival returns to the 1891 Fredonia Opera House June 14-16, for the 18th year. Under Artistic Director and Conductor Grant Cooper, the series of three concerts explores both the masterworks and lesser-known orchestral and vocal music of 17th and 18th century Baroque composers.

Performances focus on music by familiar composers such as Bach, Vivaldi and Handel, but the “beyond” in the festival’s name refers to the inclusion of outstanding works by others who are artistically linked to those superstars.

The concert program for this year includes treasured works by Baroque masters J.S. Bach, Handel and Telemann. And, in demonstrating the incredible influence that Bach has had on all generations of musicians, the program also features a few 21st century compositions by our own Maestro Grant Cooper.

Soprano Janet Brown will perform again this year; and in a Festival “first,” the program features a young harp prodigy in concerts on Friday and Sunday. “Another Festival ‘first’ is the performance, on Sunday, of Bach’s complete The Musical Offering; it will be performed in a special way that we’re keeping under wraps for now,” said Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis.

Cooper, artistic director of the West Virginia Symphony, brings to the Festival top musicians from throughout North America who are specialists in and passionate about Baroque performance. Many are Festival veterans. “The players have a strong sense of loyalty to the Festival from year to year,” Cooper said.

People who are new to the festival will appreciate “performances that attempt to capture the essence of this period,” he added. “Through the use of Baroque bows, for instance, we make a sound less massive and more intimate than one hears from modern instruments and playing techniques.”

This year’s festival features an element that was added two years ago and was so popular it is being continued, said Davis. A series of pre-concert discussions called “Bach & Before,” will begin an hour before each of the three Festival concerts. In them, Cooper and selected musicians will talk about that day’s program. The conversations will include, for example, specific elements of the performance to listen for, information on the music’s historical context, and the musicians’ impressions and reflections. They are an informative and engaging way to gain more insight into the music and music-makers before the performance! Admission to “Bach & Before” conversations is free to concert ticket holders. They will be held in the second floor Trustees Room in Village Hall.

The festival concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House.

Complete concert programs are listed on the Opera House web site at www.fredopera.org.

Tickets are $20 reserved seating for each concert. A subscription to all three concerts is available for $48.

Tickets may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891, Tuesday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. They also may be purchased anytime online at www.fredopera.org.

Subscribers to all three concerts receive an invitation to a special subscriber’s reception with the musicians immediately following the Sunday afternoon performance.

The Bach & Beyond Festival is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and with the support of the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County. Festival Sponsors are Carol & Jim Boltz. Concert sponsors include June & Barry Dietrich, Stanley Hooper/Hooper Family Foundation and Evans & Evans Law Offices. Opera House media partners are WDOE-AM and Kix96-FM radio stations.

Chautauqua County’s only performing arts center featuring its own programming year-round, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported, not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia.