It was almost five years ago when I stepped out of a subway car at 96th St. and Broadway, near the apartment I was living in while on sabbatical, and there was Dale Henderson, playing Bach, quite beautifully. I’d read about Dale, the Bach in the Subways guy, had wanted to meet him, and there he was, at my stop! Serendipity.
I’d told Dale I wanted to join in, too, and together we organized nine string players (that’s my memory) playing Bach on March 21, 2011, Bach’s birthday. It was, as I understand it, the first annual “Bach in the Subways Day,” which has now grown into a worldwide movement.
This past Friday night, I walked from my hotel on 57th St. up to 69th St. to hear Dale perform all three of the Bach Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard at Christ and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church with a truly remarkable pianist, William Chapman Nyaho. (Dale substituted his cello for a viola da gamba; these works have become staples of the cello/piano repertoire).
Dale played with total commitment, a warm sound, lyrical musicality, and virtually flawless intonation (that left me quite admirous.) His playing has a deep intensity that comes from his core. Nyaho is a marvel of imaginative yet unexaggerated phrasing and nuance, and plays with an effortless (or so it seems) technical facility. They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually
They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually trios–two voices in the keyboard, the third the cello, and invited us to listen to the interplay of the counterpoint and the jazz-like dialogue.
The distinguished-looking husband of one of Dale’s adult students served as the host of the event, introducing each half. He spoke about how Dale “owns “the Bach Suites, and compared him favorably to many better-known cellists. He,and Nyaho, play the Gamba Sonatas with a genuinely engaging sense of ownership and commitment.
One of my mottos, and the motto of the summer festival I organize, is “friends making music for friends.” The musical and personal friendship between the two performers, and between them and so many in the audience, was amply evident. It was a great energy to be a part of–and it reminded me a bit of home.