Last month, Bach in the Subways honoured Bach’s 333rd birth year in Kolkata with a #Bach333 performance by the Founder, cellist Dale Henderson. This concert was part of the LIVE IN GANGES concert series enabled by the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society & Indian Guitar Federation.
Veda Aggarwal: What are the major challenges performing Bach in public?
Dale Henderson: It’s mixed because while noise can difficult, there’s also a sense of freedom in public performance that you don’t always experience in a concert hall. But definitely sounds you wouldn’t hear in a concert hall can be distracting. One learns to simply focus all the more fiercely on the music!
VA: Why do you keep doing it? Apart from spreading the music, is there a particular joy you get as a performer from these almost non-concert settings?
DH: I love traditional performance – I love the silence when you can feel everyone in the entire concert hall completely captivated by the music, part of a transcendent collective musical experience. But there’s also something wildly exciting about catching people when they’re not expecting it, finding them going about regular, everyday life and opening up this unexpected, inspiring musical space. It’s the musical equivalent of grabbing random strangers by the shoulders, shaking them, and exclaiming: ‘this music is so incredible and you may not even know it! Here! Let me prove it to you!!’ And it works! People stop, they listen, they experience something incredible outside and inside themselves that often they didn’t even know was there. This experience of sharing and discovery is something I keep going back to.
VA: How was the Kolkata experience for you ? Were there any major differences performing here in India than other places you’ve been in?
DH: Kolkata was very special. People were attentive and appreciative in a way that was unusual, and that created this unique, almost sacred space. I think we all felt it. Playing on the banks of the Hooghly River further added to the magic. My Bach in the Subways performance in Kolkata will stand out in my memory.
VA: Is there any particular #Bach333 performance that you consider special? What makes it so?
DH: They’ve all been so special! I can’t pick a favourite if that’s what you’re asking. I was struggling from New York to feel connected to the Bach in the Subways movement as a whole. I needed to go experience it where it had grown around the world. For me #Bach333 has been a process of individual, uniquely wonderful public performances that collectively, cumulatively are re-inspiring me and allowing me to reconnect to this thing that started with just me in New York, but then grew to become so much bigger than myself. It’s been a sort of a rebirth for me – a creative springtime.
About Bach in the Subways
Last March for the fourth year in a row musicians joined a global music movement to share their love of J.S. Bach’s music with new audiences. Public performances were open & accessible to all, no admission fee was required, and no money was accepted by the performers. Bach in the Subways strips away all cultural and artificial barriers that impede peoples’ natural appreciation for classical music.
Bach in the Subways, started in 2010 when cellist Dale Henderson embarked on an intensive campaign of free performances of Bach’s Cello Suites in the subways of New York to “sow the seeds for future generations of classical music lovers.” Henderson felt a major cause of dwindling classical audiences was that too few people have the chance to experience live classical. By 2015 he had grown his solo project into a global movement: 1000s of musicians in 140 cities in 40 countries joined him on Bach’s birthday in spreading the wonder of the composer’s music by performing in public spaces of all kinds. Since then the massive global music movement occurs every March for Bach’s birthday.
Last March Henderson initiated #Bach333 by performing in 3 cities in 3 countries on 3 continents during the five day birthday celebration (March 21-25) to witness first hand the global movement he started. Henderson’s passion to share classical with new audiences continued in June with a visit to Philadelphia, in September Kolkata, India, and in early October I’ll visit 3 California cities in 3 days where Bach in the Subways has flourished!
LIVE IN GANGES is a free event, open to the public without restriction. It happens each Saturday evening at in the area the between Princep Ghat and Babu Ghat, at Judges Ghat (near Scoop) in Kolkata and is enabled by the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society & Indian Guitar Federation. This is unamplified music, open air, under the trees, by the Ganga!!