H. Royce Saltzman, Martina Rilling, Helmuth Rilling
Leading up the start of the 40th Anniversary of the Oregon Bach Festival, we are going to take a brief look at each year of the festival over the course of the next 40 days (41, to be precise).
But we could not do it without a little help.
On the occasion of the Oregon Bach Festival silver anniversary, Marian C. Donnelly compiled a history of the first 25 years. For the next couple of weeks, we will be graciously pulling excerpts from her work, The Oregon Bach Festival 1970-1994.So, how did it all begin?
While the "Oregon Schütz Festival" (more on that below) did not begin until 1970, the seeds were planted in the closing days of the Summer of Love…
In the summer of 1969 H. Royce Saltzman, professor of voice and choral music at the University of Oregon, was in Ludwigsburg, Germany, as director of the university's International Center for Music Education. While in Stuttgart, Saltzman became acquinted with a young conductor named Helmuth Rilling, an organist and the director of the Gächinger Kantorei and the Bach Collegium orchestra. Together, they planned to have Rilling travel to Eugene to teach graduate-level workshops in choral conducting and organ performance during the University of Oregon School of Music's 1970 Summer Session.
As Donnelly notes, "The Oregon Bach Festival…began without fanfare—indeed without knowing that it was to become a festival at all."
The music of Heinrich Schütz rather than that of Johann Sebastian Bach was featured in 1970. The summer-school workshops concluded with performance, and that year a Schütz motet, Milko a Heinrich Schütz, and the Bach motet BWV 229, Komm, Jesu, komm, were performed in the recital hall of the School of Music. In addition, Rilling gave an organ recital at Central Presbyterian Church. An estimated 1,000 people attended the concerts that year. The 1970 Festival budget was $2,500. And so it all began.