The Victoria Bach Festival: A history

VICTORIA, Texas – The Victoria Bach Festival was founded by David Urness, a University of Houston-Victoria professor, in 1976. In May of 1976 it was just two concerts of all Victoria Bach Festival music, cantatas, and concertos. 

“He led the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra and the Victoria Civic Chorus under the direction of Ruth Williams, a wonderful music educator, who we just lost this past November and they, again, heard from people in the community that they wanted to play Bach’s music, said Nina Di Leo, Executive Director for the Victoria Bach Festival.”

Past artistic directors include Blanton Alspaugh, Craig Hella Johnson, and Michelle Shumann and now Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez is at the helm. 

“Our artistic director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez has a real passion for supporting young composers, people who are making music now,” Di Leo said. “It’s important for us to continue that tradition and watch how music is changing.”

The moments of connection are the ones Di Leo remembers best. 

“Whether it’s the huge orchestral concerts in the concert hall where you can hear that intake of breath when the music’s over and you know that the audience has been touched,” Di Leo said. “Or whether it’s one of the events at the public library when you see a toddler’s eyes light up because it’s the first time they’ve seen an oboe or the first time they’ve banged a drum.”

This is the 47th anniversary season of the Victoria Bach Festival. Di Leo said they are excited to celebrate Bach’s birthday with Sunday’s Bach-a-thon, which is taking place instead of the gala as a precautionary measure due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re very glad to be partnering with the Victoria Television Group for this Bach-a-thon, for Bach’s Birthday Bash,” Di Leo said. “We’re celebrating on March 21, which is a day designated as Bach’s birthday and we’re raising funds through that telethon, we have some great archival performances, we have some testimonials from lovers of the festival and we hope that people will get online and make a donation and help support the festival on March 21, Bach’s birthday.”

Tune in Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the Bach-a-thon on NBC KMOL or watch the stream live on the Victoria Bach Festival’s website. Also be sure to take part in the live auction, it will end at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday after the Bach-a-thon broadcast. 

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Victoria Bach Festival to return to in-person concerts in June