by Penny Johnson, GGF contributing author
With the production phase of his upcoming documentary, The Bach Project, now complete and the stages of editing fully underway, Maryland-based filmmaker, Michael Lawrence, is putting together the finishing touches on what will surely be a rare treat for lovers of J. S. Bach and Glenn Gould.
Launched in 2007 at the Entertainment Gathering in Los Angeles, the film – scheduled for release in the summer of 2009, and with an estimated running time of 90 minutes – explores the ways in which the music of Bach continues to influence and inspire people around the world, more than 250 years after his death. Web cuts have already been viewed on YouTube more than 165,000 times.
The roster of Bach specialists interviewed for the film – which includes both performing artists and scholars alike – consists of such figures as Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Philip Glass, Bobby McFerrin, and Béla Fleck. Tim Page, a close friend of Glenn Gould, is also included in the film, as is former Jury member of The Glenn Gould Prize, Peter Schickele.
Facing the final stages of the Project, Lawrence has put together a team of many talented advisers, including Loren Carpenter (computer genius behind Pixar), and Philip Johnson (morphing animation specialist). The 63-year old Lawrence remains resolutely convinced that not only will the Project be completed according to schedule, but that it also possesses the power to uplift and touch the lives of individuals around the world. "I am convinced," writes Lawrence, "that when this film is released, the power of the Bach playing in the documentary will uplift and touch the lives of many millions of people around the world."
Amidst the uncertainties of a world recession however, Lawrence seeks significant funding for the completion of his vision. A film that boasts a roster of interviews and exclusive performances from some of the greatest musical figures has required of Lawrence and his crew, trips to Nashville, Raleigh, and on many occasions, New York. "All of this has been accomplished with the $100,000 that has been generously donated to the Bach Project. As I now face the final stages of this effort however, I must once again seek funding. I will need $40,000 to cover the cost of completing the Bach film." Lawrence, who used his own savings to start the venture, explains "a couple of artists turned down invitations when they learned there was no pay."
Having completed 36 shoots in only 30 days of production, Lawrence – who as a filmmaker has written, produced, and directed more than twenty documentaries – has done a terrific job with the help of his crew. "Though working at greatly reduced rates," he adds, "they all feel it is among the finest work of their careers." Shot in High Definition Video using the finest state-of-the-art equipment, the finished documentary will look and sound as good as any high-quality national production. To pique the interests of viewers, Lawrence adds that the final DVD will also include a bonus video section with complete uninterrupted performances. "In many instances this will be the first time the artist has recorded the piece. One example is Josh Bell’s performance of Bach’s greatest masterpiece, the Chaconne, which he has never before recorded. Also, Hilary Hahn has never recorded the Grave and Fugue that she played for the film."
Glenn Gould, along with Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003) – two of the most well known interpreters of Bach – will participate in the Project posthumously. The Estates of both Gould and Tureck have given Lawrence their full support and cooperation. As Lawrence explains, "Gould will be a kind of ‘shadow’ throughout the film. Nobody has influenced me and everyone else in the film more than Gould." In fact, many of the individuals interviewed for the Project – Tim Page, Bobby McFerrin, and Uri Caine to name a few – have discussed Gould and the influence he has had in their careers. To view the Glenn Gould page of The Bach Project, please visit
With its spectacular array of outstanding Bach players and scholars, The Bach Project proves to be an important film. For excerpts of the interviews, please visit http://www.mlfilms.com/productions/bach_project.
For individuals wishing to make a financial contribution, cheques can be made payable to:
The Bach Project’s 501 (c) (3)
The Handel Choir of Baltimore
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 150
Baltimore, MD 21211
Click here to read a recent article featured in The Baltimore Sun.
Click here for more information about Michael Lawrence Films.
by Penny Johnson, GGF contributing author