The text below appeared in today's issue of the Ottawa Citizen.
Composer's descendant excelled as violist
BY ALLAN CONNERY
John S. Bach, musician and teacher, and a descendant of Johann
Sebastian Bach, has died in Calgary at the age of 91 years.
Friends recall him as a congenial, vigorous man, firm in his opinions,
interested in other people, with a phenomenal memory for names.
Children in his neighbourhood could count on him to remember their
birthdays with a card and a small gift. An avid stamp collector, he
specialized in new issues and firstday covers. Even into his 80s,
he enjoyed an early morning round of golf and he drove his own car
until a few months ago.
He was a prominent Mason who attained the 33rd degree, and a devout
member of Central United Church, where he took a special interest in
the choir and the organ. John S. Bach was active on the Calgary
music scene, as a teacher and later the director of the Mount Royal
Conservatory of Music, a violist in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra,
and a lifetime director of the Calgary Youth Orchestra.
Born to a Germanspeaking family in Winnipeg in 1908, John S. Bach
spoke no English until he began school. The family's tradition said
they were somehow connected to the great composer, and the firstborn
son in every generation was accordingly named John. As a young man,
John S. Bach was able to confirm the family's descent from Johann
Christoph Bach, the 16th of Johann Sebastian Bach's 20 children.
Whether there is a genetic explanation, John S. Bach himself showed
early musical promise. For his eighth birthday he asked for and
received a violin, and woke up early every day to play it. By the
time he was in high school, he had his sights set on a musical career.
In 1928 he left Winnipeg with a scholarship for four years at the
Royal Academy of Music in London. Summers he spent in further study
in Paris and Leipzig. He studied violin and viola, played in the
academy orchestra and studied conducting under the great English
conductor Sir Henry Wood. He also used his time visiting Europe
to trace his family's connection to the original J. S. Bach.
After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, he came to Calgary
in 1933, where he managed to eke out a living as a music teacher in
the hardest years of the Depression. One of his students in 1935
was an attractive young woman, Georgina Nichols, who wanted to learn
the guitar. After six months of lessons, he married her. Georgina
Bach confided to the Calgary Herald in 1957 that she hadn't touched
a guitar since.
(Special to the Citizen)
Joanne and Phil Stevens
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