Bach Birthday Celebrated with Organ Concert

By Walter Ruehlig

Kudos to the Friends of Music Series for once again bringing major talent to our own Far East Bay backyards.

On March 31st the organization celebrated the 327th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church. Don Pearson, former Organist and Choirmaster at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver, and current Director of Music and Artist in Residence at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, brilliantly performed a selection of Bach’s most thrilling music ever written for the organ. Pearson’s talent was complimented by the fantastic Rodgers’s 958 Trillium Masterpiece three manual and pedal Pipe/Digital Organ gifted the church by an anonymous donor.

A champagne and chocolate reception followed the concert. After all, Johann had a life worth raising a glass to. He was prolific beyond imagination, composing more music than almost any other composer in history. His complete works are in 150 volumes, each one being about as thick as your average telephone book.

Amazingly, even though it is estimated that about one third of his music is still lost, Bach is, nevertheless, the most recorded composer in history. His works have been adapted for everything from jazz choir to synthesizer, from banjo to bagpipes. Oddly, he faded into history after his death in 1750 and owes his popularity to Mendelsson’s efforts some 100 years later.

Bach was chosen to represent mankind on the Voyager launch. ┬áThat ship is still in space ready to tell any life it may happen to encounter about life on earth by a sampling of Bach’s music. When asked why Bach’s complete works were not included, Carl Sagan said that would have amounted to bragging.

His story is as colorful as his repertoire. Bach is an ex-con who was jailed for almost two months for asking permission to be dismissed from one job to take another.

He was prolific in more than music. He sired twenty children with two wives. Ten of those children died before he did.

The same physician, Dr. Taylor, had the ignominious distinction of putting a lot of great talent to rest. He performed eye surgery on both Bach and Handel, one in 1750 and the other in 1751. The outcome was not as desired. Both died. Luckily, the well-meaning but star-struck physician couldn’t kill the music.

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