Photo by Bob Keefer

Bach Takes a Break

The 2020 Oregon Bach Festival has been postponed to 2021

For the first time in half a century, Eugene will have a summer without the sounds of Bach.

Bowing to the danger of the novel coronavirus and uncertainty about its possible spread in coming months, the 2020 Oregon Bach Festival, scheduled to run June 26-July 12 at the Hult Center, the University of Oregon and local churches, has been entirely pushed back to summer 2021, according to an announcement the morning of April 21. The postponement will also push back the festival’s year-long search for a new artistic director.

“We have made the difficult decision to postpone both the 2020 Oregon Bach Festival and the selection of our new artistic director until the summer of 2021, with the health and safety of our patrons, musicians and community foremost in our minds,” says a letter to festival friends and supporters from Sabrina Madison-Cannon, dean of the UO’s School of Music and Dance, which operates the festival.

The three candidates for the artistic director post — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Julian Wachner and Eric Jacobsen — have all agreed to the year’s delay, Madison-Cannon says in her letter.

The festival’s planned 50th-anniversary celebration, which was to have been held this summer, will also be put back a year. The festival was founded at the UO in 1970 when German choral director Helmuth Rilling and UO music professor Royce Saltzman began what was originally a modest summer choral workshop that included a concert. The festival went on to earn world renown, winning a Grammy award and commissioning new works from major composers.

The 2020 festival was to have offered performances by such luminaries as pianists Lara Downes and Simone Dinnerstein and soprano Alicia Hall Moran, as well as the world premiere of a new work for solo piano and chamber orchestra, “Let Me See the Sun” by Paola Prestini, whom NPR has called one of the top composers in the world.

Moving the entire festival to a different year presents some logistical challenges, so some of the 2020 performers may not be able to appear here in 2021. “While some changes to the festival lineup are inevitable, we hope that we will be able to include many of the same artists and programs that we had scheduled for our 2020 season,” says Steve Fyffe, communications director for the UO School of Music and Dance.

The Hult Center will automatically refund all ticket purchases directly to patrons, Fyffe says. He suggested that Bach patrons also have the option of donating the cost of their tickets back to the festival.

For more information, see the festival website at

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