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1977: Bach is beautiful, but…

  • May 23, 2010
Leading up the start of the 40th Anniversary of the Oregon Bach Festival, we are taking 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.

1976 celebrated a revolution. 1977 celebrated revelations…for the Festival.
"Two major choral works were included in the 1977. First was Bach's Mass in B Minor, repeated the next night in Portland Civic Auditorium—the first performance by the Festival choir and orchestra outside Eugene. The other principal choral work was Mendelssohn's Elijah, performed in Beall Hall on a stifling July evening. The contrast in facilities for choir and orchestra between Portland and Eugene pointed to what was already well known—Eugene needed a major concert hall."
(Mendelssohn's Elijah will be performed in Eugene and Portland this season.) While Eugene's need for a major concert hall was well known, there was something else that was equally well known…save one.
"Probably the most famous moment of mischief came in the Festival season of 1977. It was a warm summer, but one morning all the singers and conductors appeared for class wearing sweaters and jackets. Upon receiving permission to say a few words, on of the conductors said, "Herr Rilling, you are very kind to tell us how you feel about our work, and we feel we should reply. Bach is beautiful, but…" and all the sweaters and jackets came off, showing everyone in bright yellow T-shirts lettered in black, "Rilling is Thrilling." As the laughter died down, Rilling caught sight of Saltzman standing just outside the door without a T-shirt and asked, "What's the matter, don't you agree?"
Sales for "Herr Rilling told me what he thought of my conducting and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt" were a distant second. Tomorrow: 1978 - Everyone's a critic You can purchase your tickets to the 2010 Oregon Bach Festival here. And for a more extensive history of the Festival, you can find it here. Read All