Richard Webster leaves no doubt about how he feels regarding Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Bach is the greatest musician who ever lived,” says Webster, who helped organize the concert series while a senior music student at Northwestern University in 1974.

Webster then became the director, in charge of putting together the multi-venue event for much of the past half-century, including this year.

“I think the reason that Bach week is still around,” Webster says, “is that we have our own niche to fill” for those who love Baroque and late-Renaissance-era organ, violin, cello, guitar, and yes, another instrument, the human voice.

Richard Webster.

While there have always been “Bach’s Greatest Hits” which artists can turn to, such as the Brandenburg Concertos, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and the Goldberg Variations, Webster says “we can program works that not everyone else can do. We don’t just play the six violin concertos over and over.”

Bach Week is actually spread out over several weeks. There have already been two concerts in Chicago, at North Park University and at All Saints’ Church (Ravenswood).

The Evanston events are all at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave, two concerts on May 12 (one being a candlelight event), and another concert on May 14.

At first, Bach week really was just seven days.

“We did five concerts in one week in May, 1974, Webster recalls.

Those concerts were at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Webster was the assistant organist and choir master while still in school at NU.

There were no tickets back then.

“We passed the offering plate in the church,” Webster says.

Webster went on to spend 31 years in music at St.Luke’s along with teaching at NU, before moving to Boston to direct music as the organist at Trinity Church there.

But he keeps coming back for the festival he helped start in Evanston.

“I’ve always loved church and church music,” Webster says.

“I knew when I was 14 that I wanted to work in a church.”

And frequently at the church, Webster’s music was Bach to basics.

“Every organist falls in love with Bach,” he says. “That’s how you learn to play the organ. It’s just in your blood as an organist.”

The Bach festival is also more than just Bach.

Many world-renown musicians will play selections by Vivaldi, deFalla, and, of course, by old Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) himself, among others.

This year’s festival is also highlighting “Women of the Baroque Era,” female composers.

Considering the enduring power of Bach’s music, it’s probably not surprising that Bach Week Festival has lasted so long, although Webster says when he became director in 1975, “my naivete worked in my favor.”

“In those days, I didn’t realize what I was getting into,” he adds.

But it’s still going. This Golden Anniversary year will culminate with the 50th Anniversary concerts in Spring, 2024.

And, just as he is again in 2023, Richard Webster will now doubt be back in 2024. Or make that Bach.

For more information on tickets, concert times, programs, and performers, go to

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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