Daily Bow: Oregon Bach Festival Has Something for Everyone

Daily Bow LogoThe famed Oregon Bach Festival returned for its 42nd season at the end of June. With venues scattered all over the state and music ranging from the eponymous Bach to tango to contemporary works, its easy to see why the Oregon Bach Festival has become a summer institution for the classical music fan. This year’s festival will wrap up on July 15, but it has already been another successful season. For some–including OBF Music Director Helmuth Tilling–this year’s festival marks an ending point. For others, though, this festival may be only be a starting point for a lifelong love of music.

The Oregon Bach Festival is a festival with several focuses, chief among which is (surprise!) the music of J.S. Bach. Although it seems possible to have an all-Bach festival powered solely by the music of the massively prolific genius, the OBT has over time adopted a more inclusive and varied program, focusing on choral-orchestral works (often commissions or premieres) and, notably, on education. The educational outreach component of the festival is perhaps one of its most important facets, as the best way to pass down the love of music is to do it while the audience is young!

The three week festival features not only one children’s event but three: one per week. The July 1st opening gala featured a festival of children’s performing groups, and this weekend’s closing children’s event will be the well-loved “Peter and the Wolf.” This past week’s children’s event is a classic OBT’, a kid’s show called “Buzz and Crow.” The OBT describes their  “Buzz and Crow” show as “a show for the young and young at heart…a wordless act of theatre revealing a unique friendship between two archetypal characters and their music.”

The show’s two archetypal characters are played not by hired actors but by festival musicians. This year’s duo was trumpeter Guy Few and bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson. The show relies entirely on music and physical comedy to keep children engaged–Crow (Mackie Jackson) is the blue-haired mentor to the curious but musically uninitiated Buzz (Few). The annual show was a hit this year; the venue was completely sold out, and, according to Eugene’s Register-Guard, kept the audience in stitches. Children, who may have expected to have been shushed throughout the performance, were encouraged to be themselves, both during the show and afterward during a Q&A session.

The post-show Q&A spotlighted the youngest generation’s curiosity about music and instruments (one child’s favorite part was when Buzz banged on the piano; another audience member wanted to know about the specially commissioned corno da caccia Few had with him). It seems that the Oregon Bach Festival has hit upon a perfect summertime recipe: a variety of music for the adults laced with kid-friendly events to appeal to a whole new generation of classical music lovers. Families at “Buzz and Crow” would seem to agree. Said concert-going dad Brian Kelly, ““We love the festival because we can expose them to a lot of different types of music in a short time.”

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