By 2:30 the egg salad was gone. Bach was a hit for the second year in a row.
Last year Kenneth Lowenberg, organist at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, ran out of programs by the fourth hour of the eight-hour Bach Marathon. "We had at least 1,500 people then. Fifteen stayed for the whole eight hours. This year we provided Bach's lunches for the people who wanted to make a day of it."
Yesterday at 3 o'clock 300 people were in the church. Around 400 had come and gone. And the stream of Bach lovers was constant enough to keep the 500-seat church over halffilled at all times.
Down in the church kitchen, there weren't any cucumber sandwiches left either. But there was every indication that Bach was food enough for most.
Between the hours of 12:30 and 8:30, music lovers were treated to 19 preludes, fifteen fugues, four sonatas, three fantasias, two partitas, a concerto, a canzoni and many more gems to celebrate the 294th birthday of Johann to celebrate the 294th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, which is March 21. The marathon was played by area organists of the highest caliber, from Paul Callaway, organist of St. Paul's Church and organist emeritus at the Washington Cathedral, to younger devotees of Bach like J. Reily Lewis, music director of Clarendon United Methodist Church. Admission was free but, not surprisingly, area Bach lovers built pyramids of dollar bills in the church collection plates.
The audience was as varied as Bach's music. When Emily CouperGibson Gibson finished the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a baby bawled at one end of the lobby and at the other a family asked grandma if she wanted to go home or go downstairs and sample a "Bach's lunch."
"Bach attracts all kinds," one of the church ushers whispered in the back and pointed out a young man who stood at attention next to the organ right at the front of the church -- reading a book.
"Is he following the music with a score?" organist Lowenberg wondered.
"No! He's reading a book in Arabic!" another usher reported.
Although he was the only one standing, the lad wasn't the only one reading. A woman in the third row was deep into "The Brothers Karamazov." A man eating in the basement -- the music was piped down -- was deep into the Sunday newspaper. A 4-year-old girl was seen entering the church with a copy of "The Cat in the Hat."
Bach in large doses seemed as conducive to art as it was to literature. A hooked rug was growing neck-and-neck with Bach's Concerto in G Major. Several artists sat sketching the stunning stained-glass windows of the church, the 3-year-old gold and silver organ, and the backs of the organists who all seemed to be in ecstasy.
"We have one of the three best organs in the city," Lowenberg explained. "We got it three years ago. and of course we want to share it. That's why we made the Bach Marathon one of our offerings in the Sacred Concert Series."
Although they were only paid small stipends, Lowenberg didn't have to twist any arms to get 15 of the best organists in the area to join him in playing the marathon.
"Our only problem was scheduling rehearsals. In the past week the organ has been busy from dawn to dusk."
Every organist on the program was to play Bach works that would fill 30 minutes. By 3 o'clock the program was five minutes' behind schedule. "The applause has been warmer than we thought," Lowenberg offered in explanation.
Families and aficionados came not so much like they were coming to a concert, but like they were coming to a park. Several groups congregated outside the church during the afternoon and gossiped about organ stops and other things musical, before returning to the latest blossoms from the marathon.
Some music lovers stayed throughout the day in intense devotion. One chap with his longish gray hair bunched with rubber bands into a pony tail stared in deep concentration while Albert Russell played "Herr Jesu Christ, du hochstes Gut," and at the end, when the organ tinkled with delightful "cymbelstern," his ears wiggled.