History of Bach Parley
The French word “parley” means discussion; a key element of each concert is the commentary by our Music Director which provides historical context for the composers and compositions and offers suggestions about what to listen for in the music. These conversational remarks create a relaxed concert atmosphere and connect the audience with the performers.
On June 4, 2017, the season finale concert marked the debut of the Bach Parley Chamber Singers, a 12-voice vocal ensemble. Because the Bach Parley started out as primarily a vocal group in 1981, it has been a goal of our Long-Range Plan to reintroduce repertoire for chorus and instruments together, and the Chamber Singers will return on June 3, 2018.
Tallahassee Bach Parley concerts feature local professional musicians and are free and open to the public, with a $10 suggested donation. This allows community members of all income levels to attend. In addition, we encourage membership contributions at multiple levels from concertgoers who are interested in further supporting the Bach Parley.
The Bach Parley String Academy, our non-profit music school, began in fall 2015. We now have over 80 students enrolled, with need-based scholarship assistance available. The mission of the Bach Parley String Academy is to cultivate in Tallahassee’s youth an appreciation for and achievement in music, nurture positive character development, and bridge cultural divisions through the common language of music. Through our partnership with St. John’s Episcopal Church, we teach violin, viola, and cello lessons in their classrooms during weekdays. By providing access to high quality music instruction in a central downtown location, and by raising funds for need-based scholarships, we can strengthen existing public school and community string programs throughout the Big Bend region.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Bach Parley will organize Kids Go for B’roque, a competition and recital featuring talented young musicians playing pieces from the Baroque era. With the permission of his or her music teacher, any child age 18 or younger may audition playing on strings (violin, viola, cello, bass), guitar, wind instruments, or piano; vocalists and small chamber ensembles are also welcome to participate. All students audition for and receive written feedback from three judges who are professional musicians and educators. The highest scoring students perform at the final performance for the public. The dress rehearsal allows them to connect with their peers and experience the preparation required for a professional concert. This educational program began in 1997, was revived in 2011 after a hiatus, and is now an annual event of the Tallahassee Bach Parley.
The Tallahassee Bach Parley was incorporated not-for-profit in the State of Florida in September 1981, following its first concert in August of that year. From its inception, the Parley has been a community-based organization, though it has presented a large number of guest soloists and ensembles as well.
The Parley's purposes are to present vital, interesting, and informative performances of primarily Baroque music, with special sensitivity to style and other traditions, using period instruments as much as possible. For many years, a choir auditioned from the community presented Bach choral works in programs that also featured solo and ensemble works. Some of the early dress rehearsals were open to the public; and educational commentary on the musical works and the instruments has always been an important feature of Parley concerts. Special programs have included a "Charles Burney Travelogue"; "German Kaffee Haus" events; and "Kids Go For Broque, a popular event featuring talented young musicians from the community.
Guest artist concerts sponsored by the Parley have presented specialists in the performance of Baroque music, among them the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Baroque cellist Anner Bylsma, London Baroque, the Kuijken Quartet, baritone Max van Egmond, organist Peter Williams, the Kirkby-Rooley Duo, the Palladian Ensemble, Baroque violinist Monica Huggett, and the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra with Baroque dancers. Most of these guests presented master classes at the Florida State University College of Music; and excerpts from two concerts (London Baroque and the Kuijken Quartet) were broadcast on National Public Radio's "Performance Today."
Regular season concerts often feature guest performers also; and special events have included a seminar on harpsichord decoration at the Lemoyne Art Foundation and a lecture/slide show about J. S. Bach co-sponsored by other local organizations. Parley musicians have performed in Bainbridge (GA) [sponsored by Bainbridge College], in Thomasville (GA), in Gainesville (FL), and at a music educators' convention in Tampa.
The first twelve seasons of Parley concerts were performed at Epiphany Lutheran Church on Thomasville Road. Other local venues have included First Presbyterian Church, East Hill Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, Episcopal Church of the Advent, and Florida State University's Opperman Music Hall.
In the first decade, most musicians on the regular season concerts performed without remuneration. It is to their dedication, and the faithfulness of our audience and supporters, that we owe our existence. The Parley is supported by memberships and donations; and the Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council of Floridas Department of State have supported many of our efforts through grants.
Karyl Louwenaar Lueck