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Students to honor J.S. Bach and Reenact Moravian History with Walk to New York

They’ll Attend New York Philharmonic Concert after Three-Day Journey on Foot

Bethlehem, Pa., March 8, 2005—Three hundred years ago, a young church musician named J.S. Bach learned that the great Danish organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude would be performing in the city of Lübeck, about 250 miles from Arnstadt, where Bach lived. Having no other means to get to the concert, Bach walked the 250 miles in about 10 days.

Students in the music history class of Hilde Binford at Moravian College will pay homage to Bach’s excursion by learning first-hand—or should that be foot?—what it means to walk to a concert. And they will reenact a piece of Moravian history as well.

The journey will occur March 20-22, bracketing Bach’s birthday (March 21).

On March 20, the walkers—nine undergraduate students and Professor Binford—will gather at New Brunswick, New Jersey. This was the landing site of a party of Moravian settlers in 1741, who came by boat across what is now New York Harbor. They then walked three days into the colony of Pennsylvania and founded the city of Bethlehem.

The music history class will retrace some of the settlers’ route by walking 15 miles to the shipping city of Perth Amboy and taking ship from there for Staten Island. The island was the embarkation point of the settlers and is the site of several historic Moravian churches. The students will visit some of the churches, participating in Holy Week services at one and bedding down for the night in sleeping bags in another.

On Tuesday, March 22, they will take the Staten Island ferry to Manhattan and walk five miles up the Greenway, a park system designed for pedestrians and bicyclists on the East River side of Manhattan.

After a stop at a hotel on 55th Street to shower and change, they will attend the New York Philharmonic concert presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Felix Mendelssohn’s complete incidental music to Shakespeare’s play. The program will be conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, whom the students hope to meet.

Mendelssohn, of course, is another connection to Bach. In 1829, as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Singakademie in Leipzig, he led the first performance since Bach’s death in 1750 of the St. Matthew Passion.

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, which has its roots at Moravian College, gave the first performance of Bach’s B minor Mass in the United States in 1900.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.