The Bach Society of Minnesota (= BSM) was the first organization on this continent to take the legacy of J.S. Bach as an exclusive starting point for world-class performances. With an incredible 84-year history, BSM is still the regionís only performing arts organization focused on the glorious vocal and instrumental music of J.S. Bach and those he inspired. Today, the organization, under the artistic direction of Matthias Maute, continues its commitment to high-caliber performances with period instruments and historic performance practices that communicate the depths and passions of J.S. Bach's compositions.
One of the greatest cultural gifts of all time is J.S. Bachís music - timeless music that continues to change our world. The profound experience of J.S. Bachís music carries us to beautiful and unforeseen places, mirroring, in its rich complexity, the experiences we all share: joy and fear, life and death, glory and destiny. J.S. Bachís music has been described as a reflection of the harmony of the universe, and also, by extension, a model for a harmonious society. That is Bach Society of Minnesotaís north star. The BSM'ís passion for performing, promoting and appreciating the music of J.S. Bach is unrivaled. With J.S. Bach as their starting point, they claim immediately a high challenge for musicians who can deliver truly inspired and historically informed performances that ignite our audienceís fascination and appreciation.
The Bach Society of Minnesota was formed in 1932 at the University of Minnesota when a group of students asked Professor Donald Ferguson to lead an organization that would give them the opportunity to sing J.S. Bachís music. Under his direction, the BSM performed annual Bach Festivals. When Ferguson retired in 1950, the Society entered a dormant period. Following several stalled attempts to revive the group, psychology professor Dr. David LaBerge reorganized the group in 1959 and, with underwriting from the University of Minnesota, resurrected the annual festivals. The Society continued in collaboration with the University until 1966, when it became incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization. Dr. LaBerge retired in 1980 and Henry Charles Smith, Resident Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, assumed the position of Music Director. Paul Oakley directed the BSM in the 1990's, followed by Rod Kettlewell, Myles Hernandez, and Thomas Lancaster. Paul Boehnke led the BSM from 2007 to 2016, continuing a tradition of fine music making and community building around the music of J.S. Bach. In May 2016, with Paul Boehnke's retirement, the internationally renowned Matthias Maute was chosen to lead the organization.
Throughout the years the chorus size and focus fluctuated. In the early 1970's the chorus swelled to 240 members in order to balance with the Minnesota Orchestra, with whom the Society frequently performed at the University's Northrup Auditorium. In 1974 the Society adopted more stringent audition criteria and the size of the chorus was reduced to eighty. While focusing on Bach, the repertoire of the Society often included other major choral composers, such as Verdi, George Frideric Handel, W.A. Mozart, and Johannes Brahms.
The BSM has sung with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Metropolitan Symphony and Lyra Concert, as well as performing for national, regional and state conventions of the ACDA. Notable guest conductors include Neville Marriner, Leonard Slatkin, Charles Dutoit, Sir Roger Norrington, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and Doc Severinson. In 1994, the BSMy issued its first recording on CD.