The San Francisco Bach Choir has been an important part of the Bay Area’s cultural life for nearly eight decades. One of the oldest continually-performing community choirs in the western United States, SFBC has played a major role in establishing choral music as a serious art form in Northern California, and has introduced many singers and listeners to the works of J.S. Bach. During the tenure of founding director Waldemar Jacobsen (1937-1979), SFBC was one of the few choruses in the Bay Area offering musicians the opportunity to perform great choral works in their entirety. Upon Mr. Jacobsen’s death in 1979, Richard Kamprath served as SFBC’s second Artistic Director until 1981.
Organist and Lutheran liturgist David P. Babbitt assumed leadership of the choir 1981. Mr. Babbitt gradually expanded the choir’s programming focus to specialize not only in the music of J.S. Bach, but in the rich choral and polychoral heritage of composers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries whose music deeply influenced Bach’s creative genius. Mr. Babbitt often used multiple choirs arranged in antiphonal formation throughout the performance space, including works for as many as 40 different voice parts. He also began the choir’s historically informed performance practice and added a baroque style orchestra to the choir’s concert presentations. During his tenure Mr. Babbitt composed and arranged many works especially for SFBC. He held his position with the choir for 24 years until his death in 2006.
Harpsichordist and conductor Corey Jamason served as Artistic Director of from 2007-2014, bringing his professional experience as a soloist and chamber music collaborator and as Historical Performance Director at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Mr. Jamason continued the choir’s traditional focus on baroque sacred music with a deeply informed approach to the style of that period. His interest in community outreach moved the choir to develop several new programs, including free tickets for youth, senior discounts, educational programs in schools, and the Senior Community Choirs Project.
In July 2011, Managing Director Sharon Gustavson retired after 25 years in that role. The SFBC Board of Directors created the Sharon Gustavson Concertmaster Chair in honor of Ms. Gustavson’s many years of dedicated and inspired service to the Choir. Martha Westland was appointed Managing Director of SFBC in July 2011.
Magen Solomon assumed leadership as Artistic Director in June 2014. Dr. Solomon came to SFBC with over 35 years of experience leading major choral arts organizations, having directed professional and volunteer choirs of all sizes, and with a distinguished record of graduate and undergraduate teaching, among many other musical accomplishments. The choir is inspired by her expertise, energy, and profound personal devotion to the music of J. S. Bach.
Red-Letter Dates — Important Events in the Choir’s History
During the choir’s 75th Anniversary Season, we began to reconnect with past members and have now established an alumni page. We are hoping that as we continue to connect with alumni that they will help us add more detail to the choir’s earlier history.
|June 1937||Under the direction of Waldemar Jacobsen, SFBC launches inaugural season with San Francisco’s first B-Minor Mass|
|1947||Choir sings for a special United Nations conference with President Truman in attendance|
|March 1978||Waldemar Jacobsen passes away|
|1980||David P. Babbitt appointed Artistic Director|
|1989||Choir performs first concert of antiphonal music of Michael Praetorius|
|1992||Choir performs gala spoof Orpheus at the Crossroads, music by David Babbitt, lyrics by Jonathan Harris; choir establishes tradition of Candlelight Christmas concert; new chamber group Concentus debuts|
|1994||Choir launches Ancil and Denver Turner Memorial Organ Project|
|1996||Choir opens 60th season with a concert celebrating the arrival of its new portative organ by Dutch maker Gerrit Klop; choir unveils new logo|
|1997||Choir releases its first CD, Christmas Music of Michael Praetorius|
|2001||Choir launches website|
|2002||Choir releases a second CD, Ceremonies and Celebrations|
|2003||Choir raises $91,000 for a matching grant|
|2004||Choir launches Conducting Fellowship Competition|
|2005–2006||70th anniversary season; Joseph Gregorio appointed as Conducting Fellow|
|February 2006||David Babbitt passes away; choir completes season under the baton of Joseph Gregorio and launches search for a new Artistic Director|
|2006–2007||Season concerts are conducted by four candidates for artistic director|
|2007||Corey Jamason appointed Artistic Director|
|2008||Choir moves to Calvary Presbyterian as its new home base|
|2009||Choir unveils redesigned web site; an educational outreach program is launched|
|2010||Choir and dancers perform together in a work specially commissioned for them by composer Eric Davis and choreographer Rachel Lopez|
|2011||SFBC celebrates 75th Anniversary season; Sharon Gustavsonretires from her position as Managing Director after serving for 25 years; Martha Westland is appointed as new Managing Director|
|March 2014||Corey Jamason concludes his leadership as Artistic Director with two spirited concerts of choral favorites from the Cantatas, Celebrating J.S. Bach.|
|June 2014||Dr. Magen Solomon appointed new Artistic Director.|