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School of the Arts


Chico Bach Festival: Three Wonder Filled Days of Bach

Centennial Organ
Centennial Organ

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts presents the 2020 Chico Bach Festival. The festival offers three days of recitals, masterclasses, lectures and concerts from Friday, March 20 through Sunday, March 22.

The festival begins Friday evening with J.S. Bach: Influences and Influence, a recital featuring organist Tom Mueller from Concordia University Irvine. His recital at 7:30 p.m. on the stage of Harlen Adams Theatre will present works by Bach alongside pieces by composers who helped define his compositional style as well as pieces by composers who were in turn influenced by Bach. Mueller will present an organ masterclass on the stage of Harlen Adams Theatre on Saturday morning, March 21 at 10 a.m. that is free and open to the public, and his free lecture at 3 p.m. in Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall, Bach’s Leipzig Organ Works: History, Context, and Influences, will focus on the major organ works of Bach from his time in Leipzig, exploring their history, influence and context. 

On Saturday evening, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Zingg Recital Hall, vocalists Dara Scholz, Ryan Downey and Amanda Glover along with pianist Timothy Westerhaus present The Best of Bach, a recital featuring some of the vocal music penned by J.S. Bach during his storied career. 

The festival concludes on Sunday, March 22 with What’s Old is New, a performance of Bach’s Magnificat and a setting of the same text by contemporary English composer John Rutter. This concert, featuring the North Valley Chamber Chorale with professional soloists and orchestra, will take place in Harlen Adams Theatre on Sunday, March 22 at 2 p.m. 

“The chorale has been working diligently on these wonderful choral/orchestral works,” said David Scholz, director of the Chico Bach Festival and Department of Music and Theatre faculty member. “It’s been some time since we’ve had any choral works on the festival, so I’m excited that people will get to hear these works, especially since they are so dramatically different in style.”

“It’s a special festival this year,” continued Scholz, “as it will be the last chance for audiences to hear the Centennial Organ in concert on the CSU, Chico campus as the organ is scheduled to be dismantled in the near future. I’m hopeful that it will find a new home where people can continue to marvel at this magnificent instrument.”

Tickets for recitals and concerts can be purchased at the University Box Office, 530-898-6333, or at the door.

For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website and Facebook page.

Additional Information

chico bach festival logo

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts will present the Chico Bach Festival: Three Wonder Filled Days of Bach.” This will take place Friday–Sunday, March 20–22.

Now retired Chico State professor Dr. David Rothe created the Chico Bach Festival in 2003. He had support from the HFA Dean Dr. Donald Heinz, the music department chair Alfred Loeffler, and the music director faculty, especially Dr. Jeffery Gemmell who was the University choral director at the time.

The Chico Bach Festival was created to give music lovers of the University and North State the chance to hear the music of Bach (and other amazing composers) performed in the most authentic and convincing manner as possible. Audiences also have a unique opportunity a to hear from internationally known Bach experts.

The Bach Festival came to CSU, Chico when Christoph Wolff told Rothe and the faculty of his discovery of hundreds of Bach manuscripts from the Berlin Sing Akadamie that were lost during World War II. These manuscripts were re-discovered in a library basement in Kiev, Ukraine by Dr. Wolff and his graduate students at Harvard University. It took over a year to plan the very first Chico Bach Festival. In order to put on this event, Rothe had to overcome many obstacles.

“It was challenging, even daunting, to try to put on something that has not been done before. Funding was an obvious hurdle. We applied for, and received, visiting professor grants. Music students sought (and got) funding support from the Associated Students. And both the Dean’s Office and the music department supported the event. Donations and door receipts provided a substantial part of the costs,” Rothe said.

Despite the stress of planning the event, Rothe still enjoyed the work. “Favorite memory…performing the West Coast premiere of one of the newly recovered works and having the world’s greatest Bach scholar introduce our performance. Also, listening to Professor Wolff's lectures about the search and discovery of the missing and rediscovered Berlin Sing Akademie Collection,” Rothe said.