On March 21, 130 cities across 40 countries will host the same 330th birthday celebration. Thousands of classical musicians will gather in public places — like the urban echo chamber of the subway — to commemorate the influence and enduring legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach. Orchestrated by New York’s own cellist Dale Henderson and in its fifth year of operation, Bach in the Subways is preparing for its largest celebration yet.
“Classical music is everything that pop music claims to be — it’s sexy, it’s exciting, it’s fun,” says Henderson in an interview with DNAinfo New York. “But for several reasons — marketing, the creation of the recording industry — people don’t get exposed to it much or they assume it’s boring or it’s an old-white-guy thing. By bringing live classical music for free, we aim to change that.”
From midnight to 9 p.m., New York will have twelve separate performances situated along subway lines running through Brooklyn and Manhattan, with one event taking place above ground at the Bern Dibner Library in downtown Brooklyn. Beyond the event acting as a way to observe one of music’s more distinguished innovators, Bach in the Subway is an invitation for musicians and audience members alike to join together in experiencing the subtle, compelling nature of classical music.
Eleven classical musicians carting accordions, flutes, violoncellos, upright basses, and more will take to New York’s underground and offer complimentary doses of Bach to commuters and weekend explorers as they pass.
Returning for his third year is Baroque violinist Jude Ziliak with two separate performances during the day. Beginning at 9 a.m. at the 181st Street Station and then later in the Columbus Circle subway station at 4:30 p.m., Ziliak will tackle Bach’s D-minor Partita, including the much-famed “Chaconne.” Grammy-winning violist and conductor Joshua Bell, in an interview with the Washington Post, referred to the “Chaconne” as “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect.”
Bach in the Subway founder and organizer Dale Henderson will bookend the day, starting as soon as Bach’s birthday begins at 12 a.m. in Columbus Circle and ending the musical festivities in the Washington Square station at 8 p.m. Henderson’s ode to Bach has greatly expanded from his initial celebration five years ago, when he was joined by just two fellow cellists, Eric Edberg and Michael Lunapiena. This year, countless musicians will join him across five continents, honoring Bach in a global musical movement.
Bach in the Subway begins at midnight March 21 in the Columbus Circle Station and continues throughout the day in various locations. For more information visit their website here.
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