The Bach Players: latest news

Dear supporters, musicians and concert promoters,

it was in 1996 that I felt the need to bring more Bach into my life in Britain. In continental Europe, before I moved to London in 1992, Bach’s music had been my principal musical sustenance. But in the Britain of the 1990s I found that Bach was somehow neglected. This was how the idea of forming an ensemble dedicated to the music of J.S. Bach was born.

I had no idea how to run a group, and I didn’t have many fixed ideas about what this group should be. One thing became clear early on: this group would not have a conductor. Eventually The Bach Players started to grow and develop into a group that would explore not only the music of Bach but also the context of Bach’s music. What had happened before this music was written? Which composers had had an influence on Bach’s writing? What was the general musical context in Europe at the time?

In order to have the freedom to explore all that interested me, it seemed important to find our own base from which we would work: a place where we would have independence over the programming and over the way we presented these programmes to our listeners. At first, from November 1997, we used St John’s Wood Parish Church as our base. In September 2007 we started a new series of concerts at St John’s Downshire Hill in Hampstead. Later, from November 2009, we were able to twin these London concerts with performances at the Octagon Chapel in Norwich. The concerts in Norwich were hosted by Aude Gotto. In 2008 when I approached her, asking whether she would be interested in hosting the same programmes that we were presenting in London, she agreed immediately. She gave me carte blanche regarding the programming and supported our ventures both materially and in spirit. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Aude and her team and also to Alan Gotto, who supplied all our concerts in Norwich with his wonderful harpsichords.

In 2004 a certain Robin Kinross attended one of our concerts in London and offered his help; for that concert I had produced a very amateurish printed programme that caught his attention. In his first email he spoke of making recordings, something that until that moment had not entered my wildest fantasies. He not only became my husband but also the best partner in the running of The Bach Players. Robin looked after all the printed material: he was a book publisher and proposed to start a sideline of music CDs.

So it happened that we produced a series of 12 CDs on the Hyphen Press label. These reflected our concert programmes. One programme idea led to another. It was a hugely inspiring venture that took us on many interesting musical journeys. I had always known that I would sense the time to finish the series. That moment came in 2015. We completed the series with the CD Bach and before: the first cantata that Bach wrote after his appointment at St Thomas’s Leipzig and music by Kantors who had preceded him in that position.

I still had a wish to record some French chamber music, and in 2017 and 2018 we recorded music by Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre and Nicolas Clérambault for the Coviello label.

Musicians cannot exist without listeners. This became absolutely clear during the Covid pandemic. Our reason for existing is to communicate something for which we have no words. For me music is language without words. Music moves us beyond words. Being with our audiences and getting to know our listeners became a very important aspect of The Bach Players’ activities. It was with our listeners that we embarked together on our various musical adventures. It was you, our supporters, who facilitated our work.

By 2019 I felt that my energy for organizing The Bach Players was starting to wane. I had no more burning wishes of repertoire that I wanted to explore. It felt the right thing to gradually bring the group to an end with concerts in 2020 and 2021. And then, in March 2020, the Covid pandemic brought all our musical activities to a sudden halt.

After the lockdowns were over, our wonderfully supportive concert promoters honoured their agreed engagements with us. So in 2021 and 2022 we performed all the concerts that had been postponed. Earlier this year, in February, at St Andrews in Fife, we still played a project of Biber’s Sorrowful Mysteries with the baroque dancer Ricardo Barros.

Since then we have struck off The Bach Players from the Companies House and Charity Commissioners registers. Last week we received a letter confirming that everything had gone through. So the time has come to tell you that we have played our last concert.

I want to thank you so much for all the support that you gave us, by engaging with us on a personal level in many different ways, and materially for your financial support.

I want to thank all the concert organizers who supported us and who were open to trying some unusual programmes. From running our own series, I know how much work goes into organizing concerts.

Thank you to Roy and Alan for being the best recording team imaginable.

Thank you Keith, Simon and Ed for providing and tuning our keyboard instruments.

And last and not least I want to thank all the wonderful musicians who embarked with me on this adventure. The best part of the job was bringing you all together. Thank you for always giving your all and inspiring every project in so many rich ways.

We are leaving some record of our music-making. Our CDs are still there. Our website will carry on. It lists and documents all our concerts, and now and then we will add to the articles presented in its Journal section. (We have just added an article about Marie Leonhardt, one of our patrons, who died a year ago.)

I hope to see you all on other occasions in the future!

Nicolette Moonen

London, 7 July 2023

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