Classical 91.5

Bach in the Subways* - An Invitation

Feb 18, 2019

  First there was one. Then a few. And now many – all over the world. 

In 2010, cellist Dale Henderson played some music by JS Bach in a subway station in New York City. Plenty of people play music in the NYC subways, busking for whatever money people will toss their way.

But this time was different: Henderson declined the money people wanted to throw in his case. Instead, he offered audiences free postcards explaining that his intentions were to sow the seeds for future generations of classical music lovers.

His efforts, which he called “Bach in the Subways,” attracted appreciative attention from fans, other musicians, and the media.

Montage of performers at Rochester's "Bach in the Subways" celebration at The Little Cafe, March 2018

  A couple more musicians joined in. And then thousands around the world (in at least 150 cities in 40 countries around the world, as of 2015). And not just in subways: coffee shops, grocery stores, sidewalks – wherever they could share this music with passersby. All for free, all to share a love of classical music – playing and singing music by JS Bach.

For the past few years in Rochester, we’ve joined in the international celebration of Bach in the Subways – a few times at The Little Café, and at least one year at Hart’s Local Grocers.

This year, WXXI, The Little, and the Eastman Community Music School are arranging an evening of music by Bach at The Little Café on Saturday March 24th, 6-8pm (or until everyone who wants to has had a chance to play or sing. 

Singer Jessica Best and pianist Paula Rodney Bobb performing at The Little Cafe for "Bach in the Subways" March 2018
Credit Ken Colombo

  And you’re invited! If you want to perform some music by Bach and have time on March 24th – join us! There is a piano in the café, and you can even probably fit a small chamber orchestra if we all cozy up. 

You can sign up here for “Bach in the Subways” at The Little Cafe, in five-minute slots (if your piece is longer, sign up for two slots).  Link to Bach in the Subways sign up form for The Little Cafe.

Participants in the past have included students of all ages, professionals, amateurs, and teachers and students from The Eastman School of Music, The Hochstein School, and elsewhere. People have tap danced to Bach, shared reading about Bach, played solo and in groups, and sung arias and choruses from his cantatas.

Tenor Pablo Bustos and oboist Terry Fonda Smith performing as part of "Bach in the Subways" at The Little Theatre Cafe in March 2018

  And whether or not you perform, I hope you’ll come out to share in the music and celebration at the café. It’s a fun way to hear some beautiful music and enjoy some good company. 

I also hope that even more of these events spring up around the area. If you’re inspired – find details and sign up your project here on the Bach in the Subways website.  And let me know about it, so we can share what you’re doing here on our website and on the radio.


* Note in case you missed this detail: we're not actually performing in the (sadly neglected, dark, dusty, rather adventurous) Rochester subway tunnels. The initiative is called that, but the general idea is to share music in a variety of public spaces and places it might not often be heard.