Summer outing champions Bach and Baroque 

click to enlarge American Bach Soloists’ Festival & Academy begins Thursday and will run until July 22 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
  • American Bach Soloists’ Festival & Academy begins Thursday and will run until July 22 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

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.


IF YOU GO: American Bach Soloists’ Festival & Academy

  • Where: S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F.
  • When: Thursday through July 22
  • Tickets: $10 to $50 concerts; lectures, master classes free
  • Contact: (415) 621-7900,



  • 8 p.m. Friday: “Parisian Baroque,” including Couperin, Leclair, Rameau
  • 8 p.m. Saturday: “The Leipzig Masters,” including Kuhnau, Graupner, Telemann
  • 2 p.m. Sunday and July 22: Bach’s “Mass in B Minor”
  • 8 p.m. July 20: “Pigmalion” and “Dido & Aeneas”

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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