The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Celebrate the 328th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach this Thursday morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. with radio host Rich Samuels and many local performers on WORT 89.9 FM radio.

March 19, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Hurry up! It’s time to set your alarm clocks and tune in your radio.

This Thursday morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. on WORT-FM 89.9 FM, Madison’s community-sponsored radio station (below is a photo of WORT’s funky headquarters in Madison) will honor the 328th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

WORT FM 89.9

What makes it special is that radio host Rich Samuels (below), who is also a sound engineer,  has recorded local performers — some prominent an professional, others more amateur — playing and singing works by Bach in their own homes and studios. He will premiere and feature those recordings during the special birthday broadcast.

Here is a link to the 1-minute promotional Samuels recently did for WORT.

Rich Samuels WORT use this

You may recall that Samuels wrote earlier to The Ear to announce the performance possibilities, which I see as a wonderful way to take up where Wisconsin Public Radio faltered by canceling Bach Around the Clock after the departure of former music director Cheryl Dring for an Austin, Texas-based radio station.

Here is a link to the original post by and about Samuels’ project:

And here is a link to the background about BATC 3 and the unfortunate decision abput BATC 4 by WPR:

BATC 3 2012 logo

BATC 3 Confident kids

And here is a link to live streaming from WORT, so you can use your smart phonek iPod, iPad or computer to listen to local Bach:

WORT logo

And who might you expect to hear? Samuels recounted some of the local Bach fans whose recorded performances will be highlighted:

Writes Samuels (below): “You’ll hear some familiar voices on the promo (though not all of those whose performances will be heard.) I’m working up to the wire on this: the last music will not be recorded until Tuesday, March 19 on account of schedule conflicts (the last entry will be soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below top) who, with oboist Kostas Tiliakos and pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom), will be performing the aria “Sich ueben im Lieben” from the “Wedding” Cantata No. 202 (in a YouTube video at bottom).

The exact order of performers, Samuels adds, won’t be determined until the last minute.

Rachel Eve Holmes big

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

But the remaining performers include organist Bruce Bengston (Luther Memorial), pianists Renee Farley, Karlos Moser (below top) and Tim Adrianson; harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below middle), mezzo-soprano Kathy Otterson (below bottom, with pianist Michael Keller and a violinist to be determined when I see who shows up at a recording session at Christ Presbyterian); alto Ena Foshay (speaking on behalf of the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble); saxophonists Dennis Simonson and Pete Ross.

BATC 3 Karlos Moser


Kathleen Otterson 2

I asked Rich Samuels, a transplanted Chicagoan, about how he came by the idea, the inspiration, if you will, for the local Bach celebration, which The Ear thinks is great and deserves a BIG SHOUT-OUT! as well as  donation to WORTs recent pledge drive.

Here is his answer: “This week’s effort is a belated sequel to the video piece I did on March 21, 1985 on Chicago’s WMAQ-TV on the occasion of Bach’s 300th birthday.

“My introduction to Bach (below) came as a kid when I went to the Wilmette (Illinois) Public Library and checked out the 3-LP box set of the Brandenburg Concertos issued in 1952 on the Westminster label. The performance was by the London Baroque Ensemble conducted by Karl Haas.

“I became enough of a Bach fan to make a pilgrimage in the spring of 1990 (during the waning days of the German Democratic Republic) to the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany, and the birthplace of Bach in Eisenach. I also stopped off at Sanssouci in Potsdam, where Bach, on a new-fangled fortepiano, improvised on the theme devised by Frederick the Great.”


And since the results were so good for the first attempt in Madison, what about the future?

“Hopefully, I can do another Bach tribute next year, perhaps on the eve of his birthday when I have a show scheduled.

“It would be nice to find a multi-generational ensemble willing to perform the six Brandenburg concerti. And perhaps someone could also write a fugue, making use of the idioms and instruments of the 21st century.”

And what about those who can’t or won’t listen to the early broadcast this Thursday? asked The Ear who hopes the local performers will be rebroadcast, perhaps on another show, in a more popular time slot?

Samuels says: “I’ll eventually upload all of the specially recorded segments with local performers to my personal website, although that will probably take some time, given the list of uncompleted tasks that presently faces me.”

I hope he lets me know, because then I will pass on word to you.

In any case, here is a link to his website with its extensive index:

So tune in and drop in and help celebrate the 328th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Big Bang of Western classical music!

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