Fourth in our series of guest articles marking Early Music Month
By Douglas Koch
“Bach had how many kids?!” / Fascination with the sound of the harpsichord. / To our violinist: “Doesn’t your arm get tired?” / Mouths agape at hearing a booming bass voice / Giggles at the attire of the Bach’s time.
These are some of the reactions of grade-school children when exposed to the life, times, and music of J. S. Bach. Last year, under the leadership of director Rick Erickson and music associate Christopher Holman, Bach Society Houston founded Bach in Schools, an educational outreach program that is a 45-minute presentation geared toward students grades 3–5 and offered free to any interested school. The presentations include discussion about Bach’s life and music and feature performances by a professional singer and baroque violinist or flutist, accompanied by a harpsichordist, who all are members of the Bach Society’s choir and period-instrument orchestra.
The educational goals touch on three areas that are part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills set by the state’s Board of Education:
- Historical/cultural heritage. Students relate music to history, society, and culture.
- Response/evaluation. Students respond to and evaluate music and performances.
- Perception. Students describe and analyze musical sound and artistry.
Bach Society Houston is building relationships with select schools around the Houston area, especially targeting schools in underprivileged areas. The goal is to build long-term relationships with music programs of varying sizes and resources.
Houston is blessed with outstanding musical organizations that devote much attention to exposing children to the wonder and joys of classical music. We believe that we can open minds — and doors — for these young and wonderfully receptive children.
Erickson notes that “the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is timeless — it’s something that resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds. In Bach’s day, children were an integral part of music-making. In fact, at least half of his choir consisted of boys.“
We are looking to inspire the next generation of early-music performers and listeners. As one student remarked, “I want to do what you’re doing when I grow up!” We share this hope.
Bach Society Houston is a 35-year old professional orchestra and choir dedicated to presenting exemplary, historically-informed professional performances of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries. The Bach Choir will perform at the 2017 BachFest in Leipzig — the first professional American choir to receive this invitation.