Trinity Church Wall Street’s Director of Music and the Arts, Julian Wachner, has been appointed Artistic Director of the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, founded in 1997 and now an affiliate of the Grand Rapids Symphony, which has administered it since 2013. The Grand Rapids Bach Festival also announced the inauguration of the Linn Maxwell Keller Distinguished Bach Musician Award, a $10,000 prize honoring the festival’s late founder to encourage and support gifted young singers in pursuit of professional careers in music.
Lori Lee Curley, president of the Grand Rapids Bach Festival’s Board of Directors, says of Wachner’s appointment: “From the beginning of the symphony’s involvement, the goal always has been to expand the Bach Festival while honoring Linn Maxwell Keller’s legacy and vision. Julian definitely is the right choice to accomplish this, as he has many ideas for innovative programming, education and community engagement. I believe that he’ll elevate our festival to a new level. It would be wonderful if the Grand Rapids Bach Festival were to become a destination for Bach and Baroque music lovers of all ages.”
Wachner, who dates his love of the music of Bach to his childhood growing up in a musical family, has shown ample evidence of that enthusiasm, and an affinity for Baroque music in general, through his programming at Trinity. With The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra he earned a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance for their recording of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, and Trinity’s rendition of Handel’s Messiah has long been a staple of New York’s holiday season. The same forces recently concluded a cycle, lasting five seasons, of Bach’s entire monumental output of sacred vocal music, largely performed during the celebrated “Bach at One” series in St. Paul’s Chapel. The series continues this spring, on the heels of a just-completed week-long festival to inaugurate the chapel’s newly restored and relocated Noack three-manual pipe organ. The spring concerts feature favorite Bach Cantatas, with soloists drawn from The Choir of Trinity Wall Street.
Trinity’s “indispensable and unmissable” (New York Times) array of free, ambitious musical offerings, many of which are professionally filmed, streamed live and available on-demand, also celebrates the centennial of iconic New York composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein this spring. “TOTAL EMBRACE: Leonard Bernstein at 100” will showcase a wide-ranging selection of Bernstein’s music, as well as that of related New York composer-conductors including Lukas Foss, Gustav Mahler, Pierre Boulez, Aaron Copland, and Wachner himself, who is one of Lukas Foss’s protégés. The celebration launches during the April and May Concerts at One series in St. Paul’s Chapel, and concludes with a three-concert finale (May 31-June 2). With a special emphasis on lesser-known and vocal compositions, the concerts will feature resident contemporary music orchestra NOVUS NY and a roster of North America’s leading instrumental and vocal soloists, all under Wachner’s direction. Pianist Lara Downes makes a guest appearance, performing the complete cycle of LB Anniversaries – works she has commissioned from living composers in tribute to Bernstein. In many of the concerts, NOVUS NY will be joined by the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, with Trinity’s semi-professional choir Downtown Voices and the Trinity Youth Chorus also joining for the finale on June 2.
Formerly Music Director of the Washington Chorus in Washington, D.C., Wachner has made guest appearances with organizations as diverse as the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics, the Philadelphia and National Arts Centre Orchestras, the Lincoln Center Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Boston Pops. In 2014, he made his debut with San Francisco Opera as a last-minute replacement conducting Handel’s Partenope. A native of California, he studied at Boston University, earning his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition and orchestral conducting. He founded the Boston Bach Ensemble in 1995 and the Bach-Academie de Montréal (now the Montreal Bach Festival) in the early 2000s, and has guest conducted the Handel and Haydn Society, the oldest performing arts organization in the United States. Wachner has served as a Professor of Sacred Music at Boston University’s School of Theology, and is currently an Affiliate Professor of Music and the Arts at The General Seminary of the Episcopal Church, the oldest continually operating Anglican seminary in the world. He is a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists.