Kalamazoo Bach Festival Society
One of Kalamazoo’s oldest musical organizations, the Kalamazoo Bach Festival was founded in 1947 by Dr. Henry Overley, Professor of Music at Kalamazoo College, who wanted to bring “town and gown” together to experience the joy of making music and to create something sublime — in particular, to recreate the choral and instrumental music of J. S. Bach and his contemporaries. Participants included visiting artists, local professional musicians, college and high school students, and many amateur performers. A performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion inaugurated the Festival in March 1947. In its early years, the season consisted of a Christmas concert and a spring festival week, featuring many distinguished guest artists. In the past 63 years, the Festival has grown and expanded, due to the active involvement of the community: now year-long, it includes “Bach-to-School” educational programs, Bach Legacy Lectures, a “Bach-Around-the-Block” organ crawl, a Young Artist Competition and Concert, a High School Choral Festival, master classes for young singers, and performances with the Kalamazoo Symphony, as well as our traditional Christmas concert and gala finale concert. The Festival’s repertoire has expanded to include not only the music by Bach and his contemporaries, but also nineteenth-and twentieth-century composers. The Festival concludes its season each year with the performance of a major symphonic choral work of Bach or another master composer (Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 1998, Mozart’s Requiem in 1999, 2006 and 2016, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass in 2000 and 2009, Brahms’ German Requiem in 2002 and 2015, Bach’s B Minor Mass in 2003, 2007 and 2017, Mozart’s Solemn Vespers in 2004, Handel’s Messiah, Parts II and III in 2005, and Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in 2008). Our mission is to bring together people of all ages and diverse backgrounds and provide them with an opportunity to experience the joy of making music by performing some of the best works in the choral repertoire.