MU students celebrate Bach’s 330th birthday

A ‘street piano’ will be available for anyone passing by to play during the event.

Various areas on MU campus will be filled with the melodious sound of Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions April 3.

The 330th anniversary of Bach’s birth was March 21, and to celebrate the composer, the Mid-Missouri Collegiate Chapter of Music Teachers’ National Association decided to have surprise performances by music students throughout the day. The celebration will be capped off by the installment of a street piano near the Fine Arts Building.

MMCC advisor Paola Savvidou said Bach is the most influential figure in Western classical music.

“He played music in coffee shops, composed music for the church and for his children,” Savvidou said. “Playing music outside and sharing his genius seems like an appropriate celebration.”

This is the first time an MU event such as this has been done. The idea was adapted from the global celebration called “Bach in the Subways,” which has been observing Bach’s birthday since 2011.

Senior Haley Myers is the MMCC president and is responsible for planning part of this event.

“At an MMCC meeting in the fall, we were trying to decide how to celebrate the upcoming 330th birthday of J.S. Bach,” Myers said. “We were joking that it would be funny to do a Bach flash mob performance of some kind, but then the idea stuck because we liked the idea of playing to a wider audience than just music students and professors.”

Not only is she coordinating some of the details, but she is also performing as a pianist on campus.

“I think the most exciting thing about this event is that it is a rare coming together of people to celebrate and perpetuate the work of one exceptional composer,” Myers said.

The surprise instrumental and vocal performances will be in a variety of locations, including Memorial Union, Speakers Circle and Lowry Mall. In addition to various solo and ensemble performances, the event will introduce the School of Music’s new street piano.

Lucy Urlacher is a piano technician at MU, as well as a member of the Columbia Piano Technicians Guild. She was a key figure in creating the street piano idea and is in charge of preparing it for the event.

“Last fall the Columbia PTG thought it would be neat to have a street piano,” Urlacher said. “A street piano is a decorated piano that lives outside for the summer for anyone passing by to play.”

The donated upright street piano is to be painted this week by MU art student Samantha Edwards. It will be located outside of the Fine Arts Building on Lowry Mall across from Ellis Library. Anyone who wishes to play can and it will include a highlight performance that afternoon.

“I expect that some people will hear Bach’s music that never heard it before,” Urlacher said. “Others will know his music and be pleased to have a spontaneous encounter with it … Hopefully many people will come away saying, ‘The piano is a really neat instrument. I would like to play piano.’”

Savvidou said she thinks the collaboration of various music departments, organizations and students is exciting.

“Collaboration between the arts is crucial in our day and time,” she said. “It is an honor for us to join a worldwide event celebrating (Bach’s) legacy and music.”

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