Arts & Entertainment and Human Resources

Bach Festival hires artistic director

March 16, 2018
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Julian Wachner
Julian Wachner. Courtesy Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival has chosen a new artistic director.

Julian Wachner will lead the week-long biennial festival that celebrates the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries.

The next festival will run from March 18-23 in 2019.

“Bach has been a lifelong fascination and passion of mine,” Wachner said. “I started playing Bach before I could speak.”

Wachner is currently the conductor of the Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street and the principal conductor of Trinity’s resident contemporary orchestra, NOVUS NY. He is also the conductor of Trinity Baroque Orchestra. He will not vacate his positions in New York, and he will be traveling occasionally to Grand Rapids.

Wachner is also a composer and keyboardist. He earned a 2013 Grammy nomination Best Choral Performance for the recording of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” with the Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra.

The Bach Festival is held in multiple locations, such as churches and concert halls, throughout Grand Rapids. The festival includes local musicians, special guests and the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Past guests have included pianist Angela Hewitt and the Bach Collegium Japan, led by Masaaki Suzuki.

The festival is an "official affiliate" of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

New Linn Maxwell Keller award

The festival also announced last week a new vocal music prize in honor of its founder, the late Linn Maxwell Keller.

Before the festival, singers throughout North America between the ages of 18 and 34 will have the opportunity to win the Linn Maxwell Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize and a performance during the Bach Festival.

Maxwell Keller founded the Grand Rapids Bach Festival in 1997. She was a mezzo soprano who performed in national and international Bach festivals. Her career was propelled by her participation in the Joy in Singing competition in 1976, which she won.

“When she received the Joy in Singing award, that’s what launched her career,” said Fred Keller, the husband of Maxwell Keller. “It’s the element that gave her credibility she needed, and she always was very grateful for that opportunity.”

Lori Lee Curley, the president of the Grand Rapids Bach Festival Board of Directors, said it has been the goal of the Bach Festival to honor Linn Keller’s legacy and vision.

“Julian definitely is the right choice to accomplish this, as he has many ideas for innovative programming, education and community engagement,” Curley said.

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