Bach Marathon, Caledonia Senior Living, and more Bach Marathon: Reflecting on November 6-19, 2019

These past two weeks have been incredibly impactful for me in myriad ways. First, the Civic Fellows visited the assisted living facility at Caledonia Senior Living to capture and recreate music that the residents enjoyed in the past. We had the utmost privilege of sitting down and listening to their stories, which they were very happy to share. Those stories drew connections to different songs, composers, and genres and after each session, the residents and fellows began to arrive on concrete ideas on how best to encapsulate their stories through music. This all came together in a final, rejuvenating concert on Friday, November 8, where we had the chance to perform and share the residents’ experiences and music for the whole community.

Something from these visits that resonated with me was a powerful statement by Gus Noble, the president of Caledonia Senior Living. To paraphrase: one of the highest callings and honors in life is to provide care for those near the end of their lives. I had never truly thought about how deeply impactful that kind of service is, and Gus was able to directly emphasize to us its necessity and importance. It clearly meant a lot to the residents to be able to take part in a creative project with us and, in turn, it became more meaningful for us to offer our skill set, knowledge, and time.

Civic Fellows perform at Scottish Home.

After that…Bach Marathon happened. What a crazy whirlwind. This was my very first year taking part in the Civic Orchestra’s sixth annual Bach Marathon and it exceeded all my expectations. We were very lucky to work with Maestro Nicholas Kraemer, as he was able to help each group navigate their respective Brandenburg Concerto – which for me, was Brandenburg Concerto no. 5.

About half of us were new to this tradition, but the second- and third-year members were able to share previous experiences to help us prepare for the Marathon. Rehearsing the music and bringing it to multiple coachings with Kraemer—a Bach Expert–was something that we were very accustomed to doing throughout our musical training and more often than not, went very smoothly. However, something that some of us were not necessarily taught in school was how to create an interactive performance for a large group of elementary and high school students. Because of our overall inexperience, that proved to be the most difficult part, but I believe that we were able to put forth a presentation that both challenged and inspired the students. It was so much fun to feed off of the students’ collective energies and to be able to perform for such an attentive and curious audience.

One thing that I am very curious about is how much lasting impact our visit actually had or will have. A few students were brave enough to come up to us afterwards to thank us for our performance and even asked a couple of questions. Many of them physically had their jaws drop while @Pei-Yeh was playing her incredible cadenza! The teachers and staff thanked all of us for being there and providing this experience for their students. These were all signs of instant feedback from our performance that it must have meant something special to the students, although I still wonder about, and hope for, a lasting impact. Regardless, we were all so grateful to be able to share our music and knowledge with them through Bach Marathon.

Bach Marathon ended at Fourth Presbyterian Church, where we performed all six Brandenburg Concertos in front of an extremely packed house. It was a triumphant end to what was a very rewarding and amazing experience for everyone involved. There was so much talent and dedication on that stage and I left the concerts very much inspired by my colleagues.

By first year Civic Fellow and violin Elliot Lee.


TOP: The Civic Orchestra of Chicago performs Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos during the 2019 Bach Marathon. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, 2019