History of the Bach Week Festival

Bach Week Festival

A rite of spring in the Chicagoland area, Bach Week Festival was founded in 1974 by Karel Paukert, then associate professor of Organ and Church Music at Northwestern University and Organist/Choirmaster at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

Mr. Paukert combined St. Luke’s renowned choirs with professional instrumentalists from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra and Northwestern with a mission in mind: To showcase the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

The festival, now entering its 45th season, has continued since its inception without interruption — the first year directed by Mr. Paukert, and successive years by Richard Webster, Bach Week’s current music director.

After several years, Bach Week Festival began to explore the music of other Baroque composers, with a few 20th-century icons (Stravinsky, among them) added for aural interest. Four years ago the festival returned to its original mission of performing the works of J.S. Bach. This focus has earned the Festival praise from both critics and fans of classical music.

Bach Week Festival’s concerts were originally performed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, a Gothic structure that was once Chicago’s Episcopal pro-cathedral. The 2017 Festival concerts will take place in Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston and Anderson Chapel at Northpark University in Chicago.

Richard Webster, Music Director

Richard Webster is a composer, church musician, choral conductor and organist of wide renown. He is in frequent demand for newly commissioned anthems, organ works, hymn tunes and liturgical music, and travels extensively to direct hymn festivals, choral workshops and perform organ recitals.

His hymn arrangements for brass, percussion, organ and congregation are performed in churches and concert halls throughout the English-speaking world. The Canadian Broadcasting Company perennially features these hymns on its Easter and Christmas broadcasts. These settings have also been televised on BBC’s "Songs of Praise", the most widely viewed religious music program in the world.

A frequent organist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Webster has performed and recorded with them in works from the Saint Saëns Organ Symphony to Ives’ Fourth Symphony.

Currently the Director of Music and Organist at Boston’s historic Trinity Church on Copley Square, Mr. Webster directs the Trinity Choirs, who made their second tour of England in 2013. They returned in 2016 for residences at Westminster Abbey and Winchester Cathedral. Much sought after as a choral clinician, Mr. Webster has led Royal School of Church Music Training Courses for boy and girl choristers in the United States and South Africa.

Mr. Webster is Organist and Choirmaster Emeritus of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. From 1974 to 2003, he directed St. Luke’s the Choir of Men and Boys, the Girls Choir and Adult Schola and the St. Luke’s Singers in a program widely respected and emulated in the field of church music. The 1998 restoration of the celebrated 1922 Ernest M. Skinner organ at St. Luke’s was accomplished under his leadership and is dedicated in thanksgiving for his ministry.

A native of Nashville, Mr. Webster studied organ with Peter Fyfe, Karel Paukert and Wolfgang Rübsam. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Great Britain, studying the English choral tradition as Organ Scholar at Chichester Cathedral under John Birch.

Additional biographical information on Mr. Webster is available at: www.advent-press.com.

The Bach Week Festival Chamber Orchestra

Musicians from the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera Orchestra and other professional musicians come together each spring to form the Bach Week Festival Chamber Orchestra. These superb musicians are dedicated to the concept of the Bach Week Festival; many also appear as instrumental soloists during the Festival week.

The Bach Week Festival Chorus

The Bach Week Festival Chorus made its debut in 2000 with a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Since that time, the chorus has performed all six of the Bach Motets, the Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion, Magnificat and many of the composer’s best-known cantatas.

The ensemble is composed of auditioned singers who also sing professionally/semi-professionally around the Chicago area. To schedule an audition, contact Mei Aden at 847-525-2929, or via e-mail at kmta1038@gmail.com