Preview: Bach Week Festival 2021 and Fundraiser Set to Return Following Pandemic Hiatus

Harpist Eleanor Kirk will perform a harp concerto by Handel this Sunday. Photo by Mimi Wilcox.

Planning continues for an abbreviated version of Evanston’s Bach Week Festival to celebrate the music of the baroque master, Johann Sebastian Bach. Last year’s event was a COVID-19 casualty. This year the festival is planning two concerts for mid-late May.

In the meantime, the Bach Week Festival is sponsoring a virtual spring fundraiser Happy Birthday, Bach on the composer’s birthday, this Sunday, March 21, at 3pm. While a fundraiser with donation opportunities, the livestream itself is free. This will be the Bach Week Festival’s first-ever livestreamed performances.

Three works are on this Sunday’s program. First is George Frideric Handel’s three-movement Harp Concerto in B-Flat Major, Op. 4, No. 6, HWV 294, with harpist Eleanor Kirk, who is the principal harpist with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Second is J. S. Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in E Minor, BWV 1023, with Robert Hanford, concertmaster of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra. He will be backed up by Bach Week’s principal harpsichordist Jason Moy and cellist Mark Brandfonbrener.

Harpsichordist Jason Moy will perform a concerto by Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia. Photo by Kate Raisz.

The concert will conclude with a little-performed composer, Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia. Moy will be the soloist in her Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in G Minor. Backing this and the Handel Concerto are a quintet with Hanford and Brandfonbrener joined by violinist Sheila Hanford, violist Melissa Trier Kirk, and double bassist Collins Trier.

The abbreviated Bach Week Festival itself will start on Sunday, May 16, at 3pm. The first concert will focus on vocal music. The North Park University Chamber Singers and Bach Week Festival Chorus will perform Chorale Preludes with Colin Lynch and Richard Webster at the organ of Trinity Church in downtown Boston’s Copley Square. This concert will be prerecorded.

The second concert will be a live-streamed concert from Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston on Friday, May 21, 7:30pm. It will feature organ music by Bach and concertos by Bach and Teleman. Violist Matthew Lipman will be making his Bach Week premier with a performance of Teleman’s Concerto in G Major or Viola and Orchestra. This concert will be livestreamed from Nichols Concert Hall before a limited, live audience, assuming this is permissible under public health guidelines.

Happy Birthday, Bach will take place this Sunday, March 21, at 3pm. For more information about it and the Bach Week Festival in May, check out

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Louis Harris

A lover of music his whole life, Louis Harris has written extensively from the early days of punk and alternative rock. More recently he has focused on classical music, especially chamber ensembles. He has reviewed concerts, festivals, and recordings and has interviewed composers and performers. He has paid special attention to Chicago’s rich and robust contemporary art music scene. He occasionally writes poetry and has a published novel to his credit, 32 Variations on a Theme by Basil II in the Key of Washington, DC. He now lives on the north side of Chicago, which he considers to be the greatest city in the country, if not the world.