Presenting the Unaccompanied Bach Faculty Concert

Once a quarter, PCM faculty from various departments perform for students, families, and members of the community. “It has always been such a joy to share the stage with PCM’s talented faculty members,” shares guitar teacher Brian Barany. “The programs always feature varied instruments, genres, and styles, and the audience is always warmly attentive and energetic. Whether watching from the audience or performing from the stage, it is a magical experience.”

Moving our faculty concerts online has been a priority for PCM. They have played an important role in sustaining our connection with one another, while providing opportunities for students to hear from their teachers throughout the shutdown.

In the fall, we recorded and presented a virtual concert with piano faculty performing a number of Chopin Etudes in Barrett Hall. The program was presented as a YouTube premiere and has been viewed over 800 times. Typically, our live faculty concerts are attended by up to 100 audience members. Being able to share these so broadly has greatly increased our reach and allowed many more students and families to enjoy performances by our faculty.

For the winter faculty concert, we wanted to highlight teachers from other departments. However, with the increase in Covid cases in LA County, safety was a primary concern and influenced the instrumentation and the repertoire programmed for this concert. The program, we decided, would include unaccompanied solo works by J.S. Bach performed by members of the strings and guitar faculty.

6 boxes each filled with men and women playing guitars, violins, and cellos.

With a slightly less hectic schedule, violin teacher Erika Walczak was eager to take on the challenge and signed up to perform “Gavotte en Rondeau” from Bach’s Violin Partita in E Major. Ms. Walczak was glad to share her recording with the PCM community, especially her students who “have been a joy and a lifeline for me personally. Teaching through a screen remains my biggest challenge during the pandemic. No matter how good the technology becomes, there is still no replacement for playing and hearing music together in person. That said, I’m so grateful for my students who have persevered despite the pandemic.”

Felix Bullock, Chair of the Guitar Department, has also been inspired by his students this past year, specifically by their cheerfulness. “Many students have kept their chin up and look forward to their time playing the guitar.” Mr. Bullock signed up to play “Prelude” from the Lute Partita in C minor because “I love Bach! I’ve always loved the depth of this piece ever since hearing it back in my college days. Also, it’s always great to have a goal to shoot for. During this pandemic, more so than ever. I wanted to have a goal that would end with sharing music with other folks.” He also agreed with the importance of virtual programs and that “we all get to reconnect by seeing the people we haven’t seen for so long.”

Cello teacher Nick Bertani also signed up to record, selecting the two Minuets and Gigue from the Cello Suite in G Major. “Currently, I have several students working on the G Major Suite, so that was one of my motivations for doing the project.”

Also on the virtual faculty concert is cellist Andrew Cook playing “Sarabande” from the Cello Suite No 2 in D minor, Mr. Barany, guitar, performing “Allegro Assai” from the Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major (arranged for guitar), and violinist Elizabeth Hedman performing “Presto” from the Violin Sonata No.1 in G minor.

“With the campus shut down for over a year now, we especially miss seeing our faculty and hearing them perform in person,” says Stephen McCurry, Executive Director. “I am especially grateful that we were able to produce two recorded concerts featuring members of the piano, guitar, and string departments. If there are any silver linings of the pandemic, one is that we can return to these recordings and be reminded each time what a talented and wonderful faculty we have at PCM.”

As we think about what our post-pandemic activities look like, PCM remains committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our students, families, faculty, and staff. Even after the return of in person activities, we look forward to developing virtual programs like these and to finding new and meaningful ways to keep our musical community connected.