HOW WE CAME ABOUT by Margaret Steinitz Organisations don’t just happen. There is usually something that triggers their foundation, for example the enthusiasms of an individual or a group of people, or just a chance conversation over coffee. It was something of this order that inspired the foundation of the Dorset Bach Cantata Club 60 years ago and typical of the two who founded it. As head of the Dorset Rural Music School Joan Brocklebank invited Paul Steinitz, founder-conductor of the London Bach Society and Steinitz Bach Players, to direct a weekend devoted to some Bach cantatas. By all accounts the weekend was a huge success. The same determined team soon decided on a repeat, but this time with an underlying objective – to set up regular gatherings more formally to explore the cantatas. Both these study/performance weekends were attended by Roland and
Ruth Brown. Their interest and support for music was already well known in the district. With her usual enthusiasm for what was then privately afoot but evident at the later gathering, it was Ruth who placed a piece of paper on each chair with the request that those attending write and leave their names and addresses to garner support and help set up a Bach Cantata Club formally. It was just as simple as that. The rest is history as they say - and the Browns became friends with the Steinitz’s across the generations.
With Joan Brocklebank’s indefatigable support, Paul took the three Club weekends (October, February and May) for a number of years. These coincided initially with plans forming in his own mind to promote a complete cycle of Bach’s cantatas, publicly and professionally in London – and indeed anywhere else he could persuade promoters to include them, they were just that rarely performed. His unique and historic cycle with the London Bach Society was begun in 1958, with a number of cantatas already well known to him through his significant weekends in Dorset.
Opportunities arose as the years passed to extend the invitation to visiting conductors and this became a feature of Club weekends, casting the net wider as the DBCC grew, with the former conductor of BBC Northern Singers, Stephen Wilkinson, among them. Today, the Club is in the musical hands of Tim Brown (President) and Christopher Brown (Resident Conductor) following the same ethos and with the same musical integrity. Special guests conductors are still invited, with Jonathan Freeman-Attwood (Principal of the Royal Academy of Music) one of the most recent. The Club draws its membership from a wide area and joining is open to all who wish to get to know Bach’s cantatas. A warm welcome is assured.
The London Bach Society’s Bach cantata cycle remains unique in this country; After 60 years, the Dorset Bach Cantata Club is also still unique in the UK. Long may they reign!
Margaret Steinitz - Mrs Paul Steinitz