Before Bach's Birthday Bash

The house at Eisenach in Thuringia where Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) was born, pictured circa 1955.G. Jagemann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

March 16, 2017

Bach's Birthday... it comes around every year in on March 21 and, by happy coincidence, often also falls on the first day of Spring. The occasion calls out for a celebration of this most remarkable of musical talents, and Minnesota Public Radio's Michael Barone (host of Pipedreams) decided that Johann Sebastian Bach deserved something special. A number of years ago, he and colleagues from the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists arranged a Bach's Birthday Bash, and the idea blossomed.

When the Bach birthday does not fall on a Saturday, the celebration is held early and becomes a Before Bach's Birthday Bash! This year's activities feature five free hour-long public concerts of Bach's music, presented at four downtown Minneapolis churches during the morning and afternoon of Saturday, March 18, 2017. BBBB events have become something of a local tradition, with enthusiasts from all parts of the state participating or just to listening.

What initially were concerts only of Bach organ works now have branched out to include other instruments. This year, Bach's compositions for violin, cello, and solo and accompanying keyboard (piano) are included in the mix. TCAGO performers from the Twin Cities area will be joined by students from the University of Minnesota and, amazingly, the University of Iowa, too! However, the focus remains on performances by TCAGO members playing some excellent local examples of Bach's Royal Instrument, the pipe organ, with instruments built by the firms of Lively-Fulcher, Moller, Ruffatti and Dobson on display.

You're invited to be part of the throng on Saturday, March 18 for preludes and fugues, chorale settings, dance suites and variations, partitas and trio sonatas. We start with a live 9 a.m. Classical MPR broadcast from St. Olaf Roman Catholic Church (215 South 8th Street, Minneapolis) which you can hear on KSJN-99.5FM and live-streamed at

We'll work our way around the downtown core through the rest of the day, next to 1st Baptist Church (10:30AM, Harmon Place and 10th Street). Then, after a lunch break, we continue at Gethsemane Episcopal Church (1:00 p.m., 905 Fourth Avenue South), and Westminster Presbyterian Church (2:30 p.m. in the chapel, 4:00 p.m. in the main sanctuary — two different organs! — 1200 Marquette Avenue), winding up with a performance of Bach's incredible Passacaglia & Fugue in C-minor.

I hope you can join us...on the radio or, better, in the audience!

Only the 9 a.m. morning program will be broadcast, but all events are free-admission. So come for one and stay for all... the Bach Immersion Experience is incredible.

Performances will take place as follows:

9 a.m. - 10 a.m. — St. Olaf Catholic Church (215 South 8th Street, Minneapolis) Lively-Fulcher organ — live MPR broadcast

10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. — 1st Baptist Church (Harmon Place & 10th Street, Minneapolis) Möller organ

LUNCH BREAK — 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. — Gethsemane Episcopal Church (905 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis) Ruffatti organ

2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. — Westminster Presbyterian Church Chapel (1200 Marquette Avenue, Mpls) Dobson organ

4 p.m. - 5 p.m. — Westminster Presbyterian Church Sanctuary (1200 Marquette Avenue, Mpls) Möller organ


At St. Olaf RC Church, a limited number of free spots are available in the small lot (at the corner of 8th Street and 3rd Avenue) adjacent the church, but your car cannot remain there past 11:15 a.m. Overflow parking is available in the TCF Ramp across the street (entrance on 9th Street at the corner of 9th and 2nd), and you can park there free for the entire day if you obtain a voucher from the hosts at St. Olaf Church before or immediately after the morning concert. If you are able to walk between the various venues today, this is an excellent and economical option. Additional parking ($5.00 fee) is available in the Energy Ramp at 3rd Avenue and 9th Street.

At First Baptist Church, limited free spaces are available in the church's private lot, but should be emptied immediately following the morning's event at the church. Additional spaces are available in the public pay-lot, entered from Hennepin or 10th Street (managed by Allied Parking) with a full day rate of $10.

At Gethsemane Episcopal Church, some parking may be available in the 'garden lot' on 10th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues just east of the small community garden... space for approximately 40 cars. Please DO NOT PARK in the 'repair-service' lot!

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, you're on your own with nearby ramps and the Convention Center.

For more information, email Michael Barone.