Walter Bitner

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BACHanalia 2016

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our friend Sebastian

our friend Sebastian

Next Friday, April 15, from 5 – 11 pm, more than 100 Nashville musicians align efforts to perform the 10th Annual BACHanalia at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville. This unique, beloved event is a continuous, six hour concert of our friend Sebastian’s music presented once a year as a gift to the community. Click here for the church’s official announcement of the event.

In past years I have brought student ensembles to perform in this event, and this year I am fortunate to be performing myself. I was also very lucky, and was leaked a sneak peak at BACHanalia 2016‘s performers and selections, which I am now going to share with you here, dear readers of Off The Podium. Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

the inevitable BACHanalia 2016 logo

“play Bach, you must”

As in past years, admission is free. Those who attend are welcome to come for the entire event, or to come and go as they wish, and delicious homemade food will be available for minimal cost. These refreshments in past years have been available in the church’s parish hall, where the concert is piped in so that patrons can grab a bite to eat without missing any of the music: I am guessing that this format will continue again this year. As has become traditional, BACHanalia 2016 t-shirts will be available for sale, featuring this year’s logo: Yoda sporting a powdered wig.

The music is presented continuously, alternating between two performance spaces: the chancel and the choir loft, so there is no “dead” time between sets. It is one long, glorious, eclectic, paean of devotion to Sebastian’s music, and there is no other event like it in Nashville.

It has become customary for BACHanalia to feature both traditional – “mainstream” classical as well as historical performance – interpretations of the master’s music alongside unusual or even radical settings or instrumentations. This year’s concert is no exception: we will hear a wide variety of vocal and instrumental works, including:

  • two motets
  • two complete church cantatas
  • a complete secular cantata
  • a complete trio sonata
  • a complete flute sonata*
  • a complete partita for solo flute
  • a complete partita for solo violin
  • many complete works for organ

We will also hear many, many movements from a broad selection of larger works. Unusual instrumental combinations include harp trio (and harp soloists), lute and harpsichord duet, bassoon quintet, and trombone quartet. The concert closes with settings of Sebastian’s music for jazz combo.

Musicians and ensembles participating include members of the Nashville Symphony, Music City Baroque, the Nashville Symphony Chorus, Vanderbilt University Symphonic Choir, Vanderbilt University Chorale, Bassoonery, Bachanalia Trombones, and many other members of the Nashville musical community.

Oh yeah – I’m playing twice this year, both in unusual settings: accompanying Sonja Winkler (oboe) on harpsichord in a transcription to G minor of the long, thorny but beautiful first movement of the B minor flute sonata, and then a little later in the evening on recorder with marimbist Colleen Phelps (continuo) on a transcription of the complete E minor flute sonata* (also to G minor). I’ve never played recorder with a marimba player before – and never heard of anyone doing Bach’s music for this instrumental combination either – but I’ve really enjoyed our rehearsals and am looking forward to our debut.

Many thanks to the musicians of Nashville for this tremendous event, to Christ Church Cathedral for hosting it every year, and to all of the volunteers who make it possible. Hats off everybody to Susan Dupont, Joel Treybig, and Carolyn Treybig, and everyone else who has contributed to pulling this collossal community undertaking together every year for a decade now!

Here’s a synopsis of the schedule, which is not quite complete yet and subject to change. As I learn about corrections or updates I will make them below.

5 pm

Presto from Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
The Harp School, Inc. Harpistry 141 Ensemble
Carol McClure, director

3 movements from Lute Suite in E minor, BWV 996
Amy Shafer, harp

2 movements from Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
Samantha Schrecker, harp

Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Clara Warford, harp

Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150
Vanderbilt University Symphonic Choir
Tucker Biddlecombe, director

Andante from Flute Sonata in B minor, BWV 1030
Sonja Winkler, oboe
Walter Bitner, harpsichord

Der Geist Hilft, BWV 226
Vanderbilt University Chorale
Tucker Biddlecombe, director

6 pm

Komm, Jesu Komm, BWV 229
Nashville Symphony Chorus
Kelly Corcoran, director

Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542
Caitlin Dowling, organ

Andante from Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, BWV 1047
Karen Clarke, violin
Jessica Dunnavant, recorder
George Riordan, oboe
Keith Nicholas, cello
Polly Brecht, harpsichord

Ach, bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben from BWV 11
Patrick Dailey, countertenor
Karen Clarke, violin
Keith Nicholas, cello
Francis Perry, lute
Polly Brecht, harpsichord

Largo from Sonata in C Major, BWV 1005
Karen Clarke, violin

Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038
Jessica Dunnavant, flute
Karen Clarke, violin
Keith Nicholas, cello
Polly Brecht, harpsichord

7 pm

Allegro from Trio Sonata No. 5 in C major, BWV 529
Francis Perry, lute
Polly Brecht, harpsichord

Seele deine Specereien from BWV 249
Claire Boling, soprano
Carolyn Treybig, flute
Joshua Coble, organ

Komm, susser Tod, BWV 478
Kate Affainie, Patricia Gunter, Wilson Sharpe, Harold Skelton,
Andrew Witherington, bassoons

Praeludium et Fuga in A minor, BWV 543
Joshua Coble, organ

Sonata in G minor, BWV 1034
Walter Bitner, recorder
Colleen Phelps, marimba

Wir eilen mit schwachen from BWV 78
Lindsay Cunningham, soprano
Mary Hewlett, mezzo soprano
Gretchen Yeh, piano

8 pm

O Lamm Gottes Unschuldig, BWV 656
Matthew Phelps, organ

Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202
Lindsay Cunningham, soprano
Lindsey Reymore, oboe
Violin:  Isabelle Wong
Cello:  Phillip Kettler
Andrew Risinger, harpsichord

Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
Angela Carr, soprano
‪Joel Treybig, trumpet
‪Joshua Coble, organ

Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 671
Andrew Risinger, organ

9 pm

Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
Elisabeth Small, violin

An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653
Michael Gebhart, organ

Trio super: Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 664
Michael Gebhart, organ

Partita in A minor, BWV 1013
Jessica Dunnavant, flute

Toccata in D minor (Dorian), BWV 538
Rhonda Swanson, organ

10 pm

Prelude in E-flat major, BWV 552a
Nicholas Bergin, organ

Chorale: Meine Seel erherbt den Herrn, BWV 10
Contrapunctus IX from Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080
Contrapunctus XIV Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080
Chorale: Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit, BWV 668
Bachanalia Trombones:
William Huber, Wesley Ramsay, Gregory Swanson, Joshua Scalf, trombones

Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541
Michael Gebhart, organ

Valse (Siciliano) from BWV 1031, arr. Ogerman
Bruce Dudley, piano
Jim Ferguson, bass
Josh Hunt, drums

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from BWV 147
City of Light
Sam Levine, saxophone
Bruce Dudley, piano
Jim Ferguson, bass
Josh Hunt, drums

*       *       *


Our Friend Sebastian:

Our Friend Sebastian

The Brandenburg Concertos


Martin & Sebastian

The Italian Concerto

Bach on the Lute: 70 Years of Recordings, Part I


Sebastian’s Music in Nashville:

BACHanalia 2016

BACHanalia 2017

BACHanalia 2018

BACHanalia 2019

Christmas Oratorio at West End United Methodist





  1. Susan Dupont says:

    Fabulous, Walter!! Thanks for this great write-up. It is a pretty amazing event, isn’t it?

  2. Ginny McCoy says:

    I run the canteen in the parish hall for this event, and the set-up will be the same again this year.

    Thanks for your comments about the delicious homemade food. 🙂

  3. […] Click here to see last year’s schedule: BACHanalia 2016 […]

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