The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio will hold the third annual Bach Around the Clock on Saturday, March 17. Start practicing now.

January 27, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This year, Johann Sebastian Bach (below) – by general consensus the greatest composer who ever lived and who affected all the composers who followed after him – turns 327.

Bach was born on March 21, 1685, he died on July 26, 1750, at age 65.

So why not celebrate?

Why not indeed!

Wisconsin Public Radio has sent out the following press release:

“Calling All Musicians:  Annual Bach Bash is Back”

It reads:

“Wisconsin Public Radio and the Pres House are once again planning a community-wide celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday and you’re invited to participate.

“Join us on Saturday, March 17, from noon until midnight.  We’ll be gathered at Pres House, 731 State St., near the Chazen Museum of Art, on the UW-Madison campus to perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach for 12 straight hours.

“It’s our Third Annual BACH AROUND THE CLOCK!  We’ll mark the birthday at the stroke of midnight . . . and there may even be cake!

“We’re looking for musicians – amateurs, professionals, students, individuals, ensembles, choirs. If you love Bach, we want you to perform.

“This is NOT a radio broadcast.

“This is NOT a professional showcase.

“It’s a FUN, community event – so don’t be shy.

“Whether you are a performer or just a music lover, we hope you’ll join us!

“For more information and to schedule your performance, contact Cheryl Dring (below), WPR Music Director, at or call 608-890-2585.”

That’s pretty much it for the basic facts.

In the past, the performances have scheduled and webcast live so people – or your friends and family — in Wisconsin and around the country and the world too, I assume – can listen in. by going to Wisconsin Public Radio’s web site (

Two years ago, The Ear played movements of a Partita and the F minor Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 as well as the piano part of a Siciliano movement from a flute sonata. So let me just mention what a lot of fun it is both to perform and to listen to and mingle with the performers.

Bach is performed in all kinds of original scorings and transcriptions on all kinds of instruments ranging from the organ and voice, to piano and strings, to a saxophone version of a solo cello suite.

In the past you could also here period instruments such as baroque violin and harpsichord (below, baroque violinist Edith Hines turns pages for UW keyboard professor John Chappell Stowe) as well as modern instruments. Part of Bach’s genius is how well his music holds up in just about any arrangement.

Free refreshments and snacks are provided.

You can hear wonderful music performed by area church musicians UW faculty and students, young students from various piano and string studios, and much more.

To tease you and interest you, I have included some photos along with a video (at the bottom) of a live performance of the last movement of Bach’s English Suite No, 6 by John Chappell Stowe.

If you haven’t performed in  BATC before, consider doing it this time. (This year the UW spring beak won’t interfere.)

And if you have done it before, help it get better.

This is the beginning of a great local tradition, one hosted by the pleasant-voiced, quick-witted and cheerful Dring (below) – who also hosts WPR’s Morning Classics from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday — has imported and adapted from her native New Orleans, where I think it lasts for 24 hours and includes music by composers other than Bach, with laudable success.

Thank you, Cheryl.

And thank you, Johann Sebastian.

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