All the ingredients for a Bach Marathon were gathered at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon for the fourth annual Bach bash. Things got started at 12:30 and by mid-afternoon cars were parked for blocks around and the church was well-filled. There were tiny babies (remember Bach had 20!) in strollers, and not a peep out of one of them, and grandparents. (Bach was one.) In the narthex, signs directed those interested to a lower room where "Bach's Lunches" could be bought and consumed, with the music "piped in so that you will not need to miss a note as you are eating." Bach would have loved it!
There were also 15 organists and singers from the Washington Bach Consort Chorus. Each organist played for a half-hour and the whole thing wound up between 7:30 and 9 with the singers, under the direction of organist Reilly Lewis, joining him to perform the entire third part of the Clavierubung, that astonishing "keyboard exercise" that is framed by the towering E Flat Prelude and Fugue and contains within its boundaries a succession of statements of belief carved in music.
During the more than eight hours of the festival, the organists, among whom were some of the most prominent of the greater Washington area, played more than 70 different works. The level of genius remained unchanged throughout.