300 YEARS AGO

Photos: John Kish IV
Bach Birthday Cake and Student Sleeping on Church Pew: Hilde Binford

Twenty-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach walked 275 miles to hear the great Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude. Nine Moravian music students, their professor, and friends recreated Bach's feat by walking from New Jersey to Lincoln Center to hear a concert by the New York Philharmonic.

Left: a wet start on a rainy Sunday, March 20, from a park in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where 18th-century Moravians disembarked for the walk inland to Nazareth and Bethlehem.

Above: luckily, Professor Hilde Binford, in green, had brought plastic ponchos for the group. Two sensible chaps brought umbrellas: Rory Lipkis, 8, son of composer-in-residence Larry Lipkis; and Heikki Lempa, professor of history, who studies 19th-century European social customs, including walks and hikes.

At Perth Amboy, they crossed a bridge to Staten Island, where they blew out the candles on Bach's birthday cake, March 21.

After spending a night in Great Kills Moravian Church on Staten Island, (note the sleeping arrangement in the photo right), they took the Staten Island ferry to Manhattan on March 22.

Below left, The group gathered at the bronze globe (brought from the wreck of the World Trade Center) in Battery Park.

Below, from top right:

The nomads cross in front of the Nomadic Museum at Pier 54 on their walk up Manhattan's West Side.

James Oestreich, classical music editor of the New York Times, walked with them.

Right, a photographer from the Newark Star-Ledger, Noah Addis, met them at Lincoln Center.

Right, Temptation in Midtown: the sign at left almost sidetracked the pilgrims.

Below: Rachael Stapleton '06, Matthew Smyth '05, Sarah Baer '05, Robert Valente '07, Hilde Binford, Amberly Williams '07, Erin Barr '05, Heather Longden '05, Marissa Iezzi '07, Kyle Slemmer '05, Rory Lipkis, and his mother, Linda Lipkis, sing a Bach chorale at the Lincoln Center fountain. Behind them, the Metropolitan Opera.

Above, the students begin to arrive at Lincoln Center, blessed by a full moon. At right, the group poses in front of the fountain just before the concert. (They clean up well, don't they?) Backstage, Hilde Binford shakes hands with guest conductor Sir Neville Marriner, who led an evening of music by . . . Felix Mendelssohn.

And why did the students pick this concert? Believe it or not, no Bach was being played in New York, even in honor of Bach's birthday. But as it happens, there is a very strong connection between Bach and Mendelssohn. Bach's music fell into obscurity after his death in 1750, and it was Mendelssohn, as conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, who brought Bach back to the world's attention by leading a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829.