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Lexington’s Annual Bach Festival is back

Four days of classical music planned

By Barb Pert Templeton

A longstanding musical tradition returns to Lexington this weekend when the 21st Annual Lexington Bach Festival comes to town. After canceling last year’s event due to the pandemic, supporters are pleased to bring it back to town albeit on a slightly smaller scale. 

Photo courtesy of Lexington Arts Council/Facebook
Axiom Brass will perform on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at Ava Marie Parish in Lexington (formerly St. Denis Catholic Church.)

​Lexington Arts Council President Liz Jackson said they will not be bringing in a full orchestra, to allow musicians to keep their distance on stage and also so that everyone is comfortable. Instead, the festival will present four concerts featuring outstanding musicians with the expectation that the orchestra will return to in 2022.

The Bach Festival opens on Thursday, Sept. 16 with two free concerts at Port Huron’s St. Clair County Community College, one at noon and another at 7 p.m. It will be a varied program of music from Bach to light classics performed by the Festival String Quartet. 

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Photo courtesy of Lexington Arts Council/Facebook
Pianist Mark Markham will return for the Lexington Bach Festival on Friday, Sept. 17 performing at 7 p.m. at Ava Marie Parish.

Then on Friday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. the festival will welcome the return of pianist Mark Markham, in a program ranging from Bach, Ravel and Poulenc to improvisations on selections from the American Songbook. On Saturday, Sept. 18 again at 7 p.m. the Axiom Brass Quintet from Chicago will present a program from the 1600’s to the present day. Finally, on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. Soprano Leah Crocetto returns from her acclaimed Australian debut of Aida to join Mark Markham to conclude the festival. Frequent collaborators, they last performed together in Crocetto’s Kennedy Center debut. 

All shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be at Avia Marie Parish of Lexington (formerly St. Denis Catholic Church). Tickets are $25 for each of the three shows show and can be purchased online or at the door.

Jackson said the event draws a devoted crowd with people coming from as far away as Detroit, Saginaw and Canada for the concerts each September.

Photo courtesy of Lexington Arts Council/Facebook
On Sunday, Soprano Leah Crocetto will be joined by Mark Markham for a 4 p.m. show combining both of their musical talents. 

“We have a good following and we do a lot of media in late summer and into September,” she said. 

Over the years, they’ve welcome musicians from across the country who have enjoyed performing together but with the COVID situation they couldn’t bring in as many artists for 2021 but the four shows planned are all special.

Keeping the tradition going 

Jackson has been part of the planning team for the Bach Festival since the beginning and there are four of five other festival and council members who have also been involved for more than 20 years. 

Photo courtesy of Lexington Arts Council/Facebook
The Lexington Bach Festival celebrates 21 years of bringing classic music to the thumb.

In fact, it was the late Julia Kurtyka, violinist and teacher, who founded the Bach Festival in 2000 with the idea of introducing the great music by Johann Sebastian Bach along with composers influenced by his works. 

Jackson said the festival actually originated in Caro but local residents in Lexington thought why not bring it to their town.

“We wanted to bring the classical music back to the thumb and there are very few classic music opportunities in the thumb so we thought why not?” Jackson said. 

When Kurtyka passed away in 2011, her work was continued in Lexington by Denice Turck and Kay DeLuca along with support from the Lexington Arts Council. In 2014, John Thomas Dodson was named music director of the Lexington Bach Festival.

As a special addition to this year’s Saturday and Sunday concerts, Dodson will present “The Notes” which has him presenting an oral history of the music and the composures prior to the performances. The talks begin prior to the concerts at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday and 3:15 p.m.on Sunday. 

“The Notes are really interesting and they make you pay more attention to what you are there listening to,” Jackson said. 

While organizers are pleased to welcome the classic musicians back to the local stage, they realize they likely won’t have a full house each night due to the pandemic. Jackson said they are anticipating about 600 ticket holders over the three days at Ava Marie Parish. 

​“The church has wonderful acoustics and to sit there and listen to the live music is just such a beautiful thing,” Jackson said. “It’s really just such a wonderful event.” 

For more information including purchasing tickets online visit lexingtonbachfestival.org. 

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