The American Bach Soloists’ annual Festival & Academy, a summer music camp in the heart of The City, is taking over the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 11 days and nights.
Beginning Thursday, the all-Baroque affair will combine lessons, workshops, master classes, public discussions, rehearsals, recitals and performances led by music director Jeffrey Thomas. American Bach Soloists members will act as teachers, coaches and performers at the events, which offer a generous opportunity to music lovers.
Nonperformance programs are free, and concert tickets begin at $10.
Notable among the 23 events are two performances of Bach’s majestic “Mass in B Minor”; a program of German Baroque called “The Leipzig Masters”; and an operatic double bill of Rameau’s 1745 “Pigmalion” and Purcell’s 1688 “Dido & Aeneas.”
The lineup of instrumentalists includes: Robert Mealy and Elizabeth Blumenstock (violin), Steven Lehning (contrabass and viola da gamba) and Elisabeth Reed (cello and viola da gamba).
Thomas founded the locally based group in 1989 to introduce audiences to cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach through historically informed, authentic performances using ancient, priceless instruments. It since has become world-famous, playing brilliant ensemble concerts and earning prizes for its recordings.
Sam Smith, an ABS Choir veteran and San Francisco Conservatory staff member, says when he joined the group years ago, he was mentored by senior singers, many of whom had sung with Thomas since the first days of the Bach Soloists.
He says, “Taken under their wing, I learned the craft from those generous enough to welcome a young man to the table. It is exciting to take part in the Festival & Academy, where veterans and pre-professionals work side by side in this unique setting combining education and celebration.”
Another notable event at 4:30 p.m. July 21 is a free lecture by San Francisco music critic Robert Commanday. Titled “A Millennium in 50 Years: The Discovery of Early Music,” the talk covers the rich history of the movement in the Bay Area.