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“If you have Bach, you have enough.”

– Rick Erickson

Rick Erickson was sitting next to his father at a concert by renowned organist Virgil Fox. “The organist pulled out all the stops of the organ during the performance – it was very loud,” he said, “and I thought – how cool! I turned to my father and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’” Rick was six years old. It helped, he says, that his mother and his father’s mother were both organists.

A native of Wisconsin, he went on to earn a Master of Music Degree in Organ Performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and he has appeared as a conductor, church music lecturer, and hymn festival leader throughout the United States and numerous countries. He also has performed on multiple recordings of organ
and choral works, and, besides being Director of the Bach Society of Houston, is currently an Instructor in Music at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University. There is more to add, but not enough room!

Rick Erickson is buoyant and energetic as we talk about Bach, who we both fervently agree is No. 1 on the classical music scene. “My father loved Bach. He used to say, ‘If you have Bach, you have enough.’” For organists, Rick explains that Bach is what you learn first. “All organists are children of Bach,” he says.

After performing for some years as an organist, Rick started conducting and greatly enjoyed it. In 1992, Rick became the director of the renowned Bach Vester Series at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in
Central Park West, and he continued there for 22 years. “It was quite celebrated on the New York scene,” says Rick, “and they just had their 50th anniversary.” The Vespers Series performed Bach Cantatas 20 through 25 on Sundays.

Interestingly, when the Bach Society of Houston (BSH) was founded in 1982, it began with the same Vespers Series. Rick has been at the BSH helm since 2013, and its base of operation is Christ the King Lutheran Church, where Rick is Cantor. The non-profit also performs chamber music, organ recitals, and special concerts. In 2017 under Rick’s watch, the Society’s Bach Choir performed at the BachFest in Leipzig, Germany, and was the first professional American choir to receive such an invitation. Also, the Houston Chronicle has described the Bach Society of Houston as the “jewel of the Houston arts and music scene” – no small accolade.

When asked about the Society’s supporters and members, Rick waxes eloquent. “People are passionate and generous in Houston, both individuals and foundations,” he said. “During the pandemic, when we had to find other ways to perform, our supporters and fans stayed with us. We performed with masks and social distancing. We tried all kinds of masks – finally, someone said, ‘I found the mask!’” he laughed. Their virtual performances, he said, were well attended.

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, the BSH has wonderful plans. There will be a performance of two cantatas that Bach used as audition pieces for his entrance into Leipzig, where he became Director of Music in principal churches in the town. During his years there, he wrote a sacred cantata for every Sunday service, signing each one S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria – to the Glory of God Alone.) This Sunday, May 22nd, at 7:00 p.m., the BSH will present a gallery concert at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with Concerti for Oboe and
Strings. (Tickets are available at bachsocietyhouston.org or at the door.) Later in the year, a Christmas Oratorio is planned.

I ask what I’ve wanted to know since we first started talking. “Do you have a favorite Bach composition?” His answer is visceral. Like a shot. “Impossible!” he says, then softens by explaining “There are Cantatas, for example, that you have played many times, and every time you perform it, you hear maybe 16 musical nuances you missed before.”

I decide to make it easier. “What is your favorite, then, among the following: St. John’s Passion, St. Matthew’s Passion, or the Mass in B Minor?” “I can’t!” he exclaims. “Each is equally wonderful in its own, unique way!” I give up. Such enthusiasm bears fruit not only in the Society’s performances but also in its Outreach programs. One such is “Bach in Schools,” begun, thanks to Mr. Erickson, in 2015. Having reached more than 3,000
children in the Houston area, the program includes a 45-minute free presentation to elementary school children, including a performance on a spinet piano harpsichord.

It is probable that more than one elementary school child has sat listening to the performance and thought to himself or herself, “How cool! That’s what I want to do!”

– Linda Faulkner Johnston—Tradition Senior Living

For more information, see www.bachsocietyhouston.org

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