The music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) continues to grip listeners throughout the world. Evidence of this passion for Bach’s music is the 36th annual Bach Week Festival, which kicks off April 24 at the Music Institute of Chicago on Chicago Avenue.

A number of Evanston residents will perform at the Bach Week Festival. Michael Henoch, assistant principal oboist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will perform Concerto in A Major for Oboe d’amore and Strings, BWV 1055.

“This is not a flashy piece,” says Mr. Henoch, a member of the Bach Week Festival Orchestra since 1974. “It has a lot of depth for a concerto. If you love Bach, you’ll like this work.”

Other Evanston residents participating in Bach Week are Anita Rieder, flute; Sheila Hanford, violin; Mathais Tacke, violin; and Melissa Kirk, viola. Seven of the Bach Week Festival Chorus members are Evanston residents: Dorothy Scott, Eileen Chambers, Celeste Kendall, Kirin Nielsen, Franziska Stern, William Guess and Christiane Tacke.

Bach Week was founded in 1974 by Karel Paukert, then associate professor of organ and church music. Mr. Paukert said one consideration in founding the festival was that he wanted to present the works of a great composer. He had always loved the music of Bach, Mr. Paukert added, because Bach wrote so much for the organ. The festival grew from there.

Richard Webster, a student of Mr. Paukert, assumed the leadership of the Bach Week Festival after the first year, in 1975, and has been the artistic director ever since. He is a composer, church musician, choral conductor and organist of wide renown.

Mr. Paukert says Mr. Webster has brought the festival to a high artistic level; many members of the Bach Week Festival Orchestra are members of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestras and prominent chamber ensembles. They are some of Chicago area’s finest instrumental and vocal soloists, he says.

This year’s festival is a two-concert series with diverse programs of music exclusively by Johann Sebastian Bach. Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. on April 24 and 26 at Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave.

At the opening concert on April 24, keyboard artist David Schrader – a Bach Week participant since the early ’80s – will play harpsichord in a solo recital. Mr. Schrader will perform a range of Bach’s harpsichord music, emphasizing some of the composer’s lesser-known works. He will open the concert with the Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 894, an example of masterful German counterpoint.

“David is a genius at putting together tantalizingly varied programs,” Mr. Webster says. “He is informative, funny and unforgettable on stage. Come with a very open mind,” he adds.

Mr. Webster says a variety of things keep audiences coming back each spring: the music of Bach, top-rank musicianship, a casual and festive atmosphere, the relative intimacy of the 500-seat Nichols Concert Hall, the availability of low-cost parking on nearby streets and in public lots – all free on Sunday – and modest ticket prices, with no single ticket costing more than $35.

This year’s festival includes fewer concerts than usual because organizers are being extra-cautious about finances. “We want to maintain a solid financial position to help ensure that Bach Week continues to be a musical rite of spring for decades to come,” Mr. Webster says. “Our attitude is that even in tough times, ‘Yes, we cantata.’”

Single tickets for each concert are $35 regular adult admission, $30/seniors 65 and older, $2/ students (with ID) and $10/children 12 and younger. Prices are the same for both main-floor and balcony seats. All seating is reserved. Call 800-595-4849 or order online at www.bachweek.org. For general information about the Bach Week Festival,
call 847-648-0813 or e-mail info@bachweek.org.