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Bach Festival brings musical feast to Valley

Item by Jim Bishop

The 16th annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival will offer another musical feast for the senses, June 8-15 at Eastern Mennonite University.

“This year’s theme, ‘Bach and String Things,’ will feature music that displays the incredible range of sounds possible with string instruments,” noted Mary Kay Adams, the festival’s executive director.

Among the guest artists is Eugene Friesen, an internationally-active cellist, composer, conductor and teacher. The two-time Grammy Award winner and member of the Paul Winter Consort teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Friesen’s love for children prompted him to create his popular “Cello Man Show,” used to foster an appreciation of music in younger audiences. This program will be performed at noon June 14 at Asbury United Methodist Church, Downtown Harrisonburg. Several of Friesen’s works will be featured during concerts at EMU on June 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and at 10 a.m. June 15.

Another guest artist, Michael Partington, is internationally known as a guitarist, teacher and adjudicator. The Seattle resident is director of the guitar program at the University of Washington. This is his second appearance with our festival and he will be performing the “Castelnuovo-Tedesco Concerto” on June 8 and the “Rodrigo Concerto” on June 14.

Other soloists will include Anastasia Jellison, harp; Bradley Lehman, harpsichord; David Newman, baritone; and Joan Griffing, violin.

Dr. Kenneth J. Nafziger, professor of music at EMU, is the festival’s artistic director and conductor.

Bach works to be performed include his “Brandenburg Concertos No. 3 & 6 in B-flat Major,” “Suite No. 4 for Orchestra in D Major” and “Concerto Movement in D Major, ‘Sinfonia.'”

The festival will conclude with the popular Leipzig service, a re-creation of an 18th century Lutheran liturgy at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, where Bach was cantor and composed a cantata for each week’s service.

The service will feature Bach’s “Cantata No. 137,” with Kris Martin-Baker, soprano; Joel Ross, countertenor and tenor; David Newman, baritone; and the festival choir and orchestra; EMU President Loren Swartzendruber, homilist; and Marvin Mills, organist.

Again this year, chamber music concerts with Bach Festival artists will be presented noon-1 p.m. in the sanctuary at Asbury United Methodist Church. Admission to these programs is free; donations are welcomed.

“There’s something for everyone to enjoy at this year’s festival,” Adams said. “It’s an exciting week of quality performances with superb musicians from around the country. We invite the community to join us.”

For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, see or call the EMU box office at 540.432.4582.