The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: After this year’s success, “Bach Around the Clock” will return next year on March 10, 2018 | March 24, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The revival of “Bach Around the Clock” (below) this past Saturday proved so successful to listeners, performers and organizers that it will return again next year in March 2018. (Below are violist Stan Weldy and his mandolinist son Alex.)

“It went so well, we will do it again,” said the chief organizer, violist Marika Fisher Hoyt (below), who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Ancora String Quartet. She not only was the main host for BATC, she also played in more than half-dozen performances.

As you may recall, the marathon event to mark the 332nd birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) took place from noon to midnight, wisely revised to 9:30 p.m. after too few performers signed up, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street.

Plans for next year are already being made and meetings have already been held. And next year will bring major some changes, Fischer Hoyt told The Ear.

For one, the date will be March 10, 2018 – not March 17 or March 24 – which means it will come well before the usual timing of the Saturday nearest to Bach’s birthday of March 21. But, unlike what happened this year, this earlier date avoids the UW-Madison spring break plus the Easter break for public schools. That could reap big benefits in terms of audience and performers.

Because of the immense amount of work involved, Fischer Hoyt said, a non-profit organization will also be formed and more volunteers will be recruited to help spread out the workload of lining up performers and donors, and of organizing and hosting the event.

As for lining up performers, Fischer Hoyt is extremely optimistic.

“There’s a lot of talent in this town I’ve never heard of,” she told The Ear. (Below is impressive pianist Tim Adrianson performing three Preludes and Fugues from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Book II.)

The Ear, who spent an enjoyable six hours or so attending the event, has to agree. He took a lot of photos and will be posting more about the event in the coming days.

Right now, he wants to give a big shout-out to Fischer Hoyt for some of the innovations she brought to this year’s revival of a traditional event that was held for three years, and then abandoned, by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here are a few of the changes she made, which The Ear thinks proved all for the better, for BATC 4.

1) There were multiple hosts, which breaks up the event and helps avoid monotony.

2) Prior to playing, performers, some of whom traveled from as far away as Dubuque, Milwaukee, Chicago and Waupun, were briefly interviewed and asked what they liked about Bach’s music and why they chose a particular piece to perform. (Below, flutist Casey Oelkers, left, talks with Hoyt.) That adds personal interest.

3) Free quality snacks of fresh fruit and cheese, not just delicious sweet things like cookies and kringle, were available, as were bottled water, tea and coffee. Good food translates into longer and more comfortable attendance.

4) The church’s venue, especially its woody interior (below), seemed much more suited to Bach’s music and friendly to the audience than the Pres House. And thanks to donations, in addition to a fine church organ there were fine instruments to play, including a Kawai grand piano and a hand-built clavichord from Farley’s House of Pianos. There were also birthday cakes donated by Clasen’s European Bakery of Middleton.

5) The entire event was recorded by Rich Samuels (below) — Madison’s chronicler of live music. He is from WORT-FM 89.9 and he will air BATC in increments on his “Anything Goes” program on Thursday mornings. In fact the broadcasts started this past week with a performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 on Thursday morning.

6) The event was streamed live via four different places or portals: the St. Andrew’s website, the Bach Around the Clock website, the Audio for the Arts website and WORT website.

7) There was an impressive variety of performers on all levels and of repertoire. It ranged from student to amateur to professional; from solo and small chamber groups to larger choral and orchestral ensembles, plus faculty members from the UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh as well as the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music. The Ear expects the lineup will get even better as word of next year gets out and spreads. (Below are students from the Suzuki Strings of Madison.) Time to get out the music and start practicing!

8) There might a 9-CD boxed set from Audio for the Arts, depending on getting authorization from all the performers.

In short, Bach Around the Clock 4 was a remarkable community event to honor both a remarkable composer and a town with a remarkable commitment to and a remarkable amount of classical music.

To keep current with BATC news, check the event’s website:

Cheers to Bach Around the Clock.

And special cheers to Marika Fischer Hoyt.

Bravissimo tutti!

Did you go?

What did you think?

Do you have something to say that you can leave in the COMMENT section?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Happy to see the return!


    Comment by Cheryl Dring — March 24, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

  2. Great stuff. Bach is the Charlie Chaplin of classical music: he appeals to everyone, not just purists. And he’s old fashioned but forward-looking (remember those “Switched on Bach albums of decades ago?). Unlike Haydn or even Beethoven, he’s ideal for crossovers into other kinds of music.

    Plus, he wrote a huge number of works not all of which survive, but in multiple genres. But most of them are for intimate settings (which works well for an organization that wants to do things in an alternative fashion) with churches being the performance centers.

    It’s terrific to see the community embrace his work.

    I think especially important are the recordings and live streaming: this is how you reach the young who are not performers. And, it’s good for music, culture, the city, and yes, business!

    Some nice changes and the commitment to getting better next year is impressive. Very well done!


    Comment by FFlambeau — March 24, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

  3. The full 9.5 hours was not too much. Had it lasted to midnight, I’d have stayed. There just wasn’t anything on the program I didn’t want to hear. Access to two toilets in the basement helped. (I brought a bottle of water and a small jar of oat cereal and raisins. And my crocheting.)


    Comment by Gundega Korsts — March 24, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

  4. A huge thank you to Marika, Ken Stancer, Mr. Samuels and all involved in this fun event! I look forward to hearing great Bach music again next year.


    Comment by Sue Reget — March 24, 2017 @ 10:49 am

  5. […] Click here for The Well-Tempered Ear’s post. […]


    Pingback by Glowing Review of BATC IV, from The Well-Tempered Ear – Bach Around The Clock — March 24, 2017 @ 9:24 am

  6. Makes sense to end it earlier! There probably were posters but I don’t remember seeing them. Good idea to change the date!

    Ann Boyer


    Comment by Ann Boyer — March 24, 2017 @ 8:26 am

  7. I was able to stop in to BATC twice on Saturday and thought it was terrific. The only suggestion I would make relates to the sound recording. Both the equipment and Mr. Samuels himself blocked the view of the audience and pushed the performers back. It was like observing a recording studio at work instead of a live performance. Focusing on the recording can also discourage talented amateurs and entertaining experimental groups from performing. Let’s maintain the mission as a riot of live music.


    Comment by Janet M — March 24, 2017 @ 6:55 am

    • Although it may have been slightly inconvenient to you, think of the terrific benefits that recording and live streaming provide to others. These events could reach a far wider audience, with a different composition. And there are those of us who actually like seeing the “play within a play” with the recording people at a performance.


      Comment by FFlambeau — March 24, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

  8. It was terrific. Affecting performances. The true spirit of music, shared, appreciated. The streaming a big plus for people who couldn’t go.


    Comment by Ronnie Hess — March 24, 2017 @ 6:15 am

  9. I’ve so far been unable to attend any of the BATC performances yet, but I’m going to do my best to hear some next year. It’s a great idea!


    Comment by buppanasu — March 24, 2017 @ 12:11 am

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