Lunch with a Legend: An Hour of Bach at UCI

For any classical music lover, the “Bach’s Lunch” concert was certainly a performance to behold. Taking place at the Claire Trevor School of Arts’ Amphitheater on April 8, this was the third annual performance in what looks to be a long-standing tradition. Like the event’s name itself, the concert consisted of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello.

These suites are often recognized due to how often they are played as a solo composition. Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma even won a Grammy in 1985 for recording an album consisting of only these specific cello pieces. The concert in “Bach’s Lunch” was performed by a selection of music students, and it’s possible they could have given Yo-Yo Ma a run for his money.

Hosted by music professor Maggie Parkins, the performance took place outside and, surprisingly, did not consist of only cellos. There were also some who played violin versions of Bach’s movements, which is what started off the concert itself. While it was an excellent performance, I couldn’t help but feel the violin was only an appetizer for what was to come.

With the audience sitting on the grassy steps in the sunny afternoon weather, a student walked out, with cello in hand. The amphitheater was bare, with nothing but a towering white wall behind the student, her elegant instrument and a chair. While not particularly a stylistic choice, it was perfect. There were no distractions. Nothing to make our minds wander or lose focus on what was blatantly the most important thing: the music.

The student then proceeded to play her piece, unaccompanied and unattended by anything else playing in the background. What went on for the next hour could be thought of as a sort of musical bliss. As the student finished up her piece, she proceeded to switch with another. With each new musician came the next piece and this harmonious exchange continued until the very last note. Of course, each piece was beautiful, taking the spotlight (along with its musicians) as it was being played.

Since the performance was occurring outdoors, the cellos could be heard throughout the art school, and those who were simply walking by seemed to be enticed by the cello’s melodies as well. All in all, the event ended in a well-deserved applause once the hour of Bach was over.

When the concert concluded with its final piece, I guess you could say my heart was afloat. It was definitely a different experience for me, as I don’t attend or listen to classical performances very often.

Still, I’m sure the entire audience enjoyed it and the people who performed Bach’s suites certainly have a bright future for them. Professor Parkins, who hosts the event every year, is definitely introducing a welcome addition to UCI’s long list of annual events. I’m definitely going to attend next year’s lunch. If you enjoy classical music, I suggest you go to soothe your ears as well.