Bach Festival Brings Classics To The Present

By Jonathan Van Dyke, Gazettes Newspaper
February, 13, 2014

A lot of what happens in music today traces back to one man: Johann Sebastian Bach, says Robert Istad, artistic director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers.

The group puts on the annual Long Beach Bach Festival, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. There will be events on Feb. 15, March 9, March 16, March 23 and April 4.

“Bach is the foundation of all the music that we know and love,” Istad said. “If he hadn’t existed and been so incredibly brilliant — if he hadn’t established this style — then nothing we know would exist like it does today.”

Istad said Long Beach City College’s Frank Allen started the concert series 40 years ago, and at that time, it presented one Bach piece every year. Eventually, it grew into a full-fledged festival.

“Not only did they want to perform, but also showcase national and regional talent performing, in our community, works by and inspired by Bach,” Istad said. “I wanted to make it more a representation of our community. I wanted to really creatively look at our community values and bring in concert experiences that would be interesting and exciting for Long Beach.”

The challenge as always, he added, was making Bach relevant to people today. In trying to do that, Istad said he and volunteers worked to schedule a variety of performers so Bach could be seen through many different lenses.

“When you hear them side by side, you realize how much they have in common,” he said.

The Bach Festival’s lineup includes:

• Feb. 15: Los Angeles Horizon Chamber Choir Presents “My Heart’s Pasture.” This is Bach’s five-voiced funereal motet, “Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my Joy).” The performance takes place at 3 p.m. at California Heights Methodist Church, 3759 Orange Ave. Cost is $30.

• March 9: Junior Bach Festival. This will feature local winners of the Southern California Junior Bach Festival competition, with youth vocalists and instrumentalists performing various Bach pieces. The event starts at 3 p.m. at Bayshore Community Congregational Church, 5100 The Toledo, and it is free to the public.

• March 16: Bach A Bacchus, an annual wine and jazz night. Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer Bill Cunliffe and friends will perform. The performance takes place at 5 p.m. at The Sky Room, 40 S. Locust Ave. The cost is $50 and includes light hors d’oeuvres.

March 23: Long Beach Camerata Singers perform “St. John’s Passion” as conducted by Istad. This event features a pre-concert talk at 4:30 p.m. and then the performance will be at 5:30 p.m. Both take place at the Long Beach City College Auditorium, 4901 E. Carson St. Tickets are $10-$40.

• April 4: “Goldberg Variations” by string trio Movses Pogossian (violin), Guillaume Sutre (viola) and Antonio Lysy (cello). This performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. at California Heights United Methodist Church, 3759 Orange Ave. Tickets will be $30.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit or call 522-1045.

Jonathan Van Dyke can be reached at