Bach is back in Saskatoon with 2019 Bach Festival

Organizer wanted to celebrate Bach because he was an individual who made music that was well-received by the higher classes, but also resonated with the masses.

Fans of Johann Sebastian Bach are celebrating the famed German composer in Saskatoon

Emily Burak, the artistic director of the Saskatoon Bach Festival, poses for a photo wearing a costume based on a 1720s Watteau gown popularized by French painter, Jean-Antoine Watteau. She said it was her love of Johann Sebastian Bach and historical costumes that inspired her to launch the Saskatoon Bach Festival. (Supplied/Emily Burak)

Whether you're a fan of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" or the "Goldberg Variations" a new festival in Saskatoon will have something for Johann Sebastian Bach fans of every variety.

Taking place Sunday afternoon at Christ Church Anglican, the festival is set to take place at 3 p.m. and will celebrate all things Bach.

The idea for the festival, according to its artistic director, high school student Emily Burak,  was rooted in a costume she had created based on a 1720s Watteau gown made popularized by French painter, Jean-Antoine Watteau.

"I really love Bach and another thing that I love is historical costuming," she said. "I was working on a costume that would have been worn around the time that Bach was living and composing music in Germany and I thought, you know, I should have a place to go somewhere with this."

That's when Burak and her mom decided a Bach festival would be the perfect event to sport such a resplendent costume. However, she said it wouldn't be the first time the city has had a festival dedicated to the German master, as it's her understanding there was a Bach festival in Saskatoon in the 1930s.

After speaking with some friends, she said it was determined Bach was "too good" not to have an entire festival dedicated to the composer, with professional and upcoming musicians coming together to perform a program made up entirely of Bach's music across a variety of mediums including violin, pipe organ, harpsichord, piano, cello, and voice.

Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach (Eisenach, 1685 - Leipzig, 1750), German composer and organist, oil. (DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI)

Burak said she wanted to celebrate Bach because he was an individual who made music that was well-received by the higher classes, but also resonated with the masses. 

"Bach — he has something for everyone," she said.

"He was always working with young people and so he knew kind of the challenges that students faced, and how to help everyone regardless of what level they were at," she said. "But he also he knew he was worth enough to write celebratory music for like a king or princes." ​​​​

Burak said Bach was an "all around musician" who created a broad range of music, with melodies ranging from dramatic and exciting to comforting and soothing. She said she's had great support from her parents, her mentor, Renée de Moissac, and the entire classical-musical community in Saskatoon.

The mood at rehearsals leading up to the event have been "very exciting" Burak said, as Bach's music continues to connect with modern musicians.

"Even though he's been dead for such a long time,you can still feel the energy and the passion in the music that he wrote," she said. "So when we come together to perform this music and to get it ready it's just very exciting."

Attendees to festival aren't just encouraged to become immersed in the music of Bach, but in the time period as well, as guests have the chance to win prizes for best historical costumes.

After the festival has concluded, she hopes residents in Saskatoon were able get a "glimpse of who Bach was."

Burak doesn't expect this to be a one-shot event, as she's already planning another festival — and costume — for next year.


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