A Look Back at the 1950s

Organized in the fall of 1954, BachSoc offered its first concert at Paine Hall on November 7, 1954 under the direction of Michael Greenebaum. The orchestra was well received during its first few seasons, and many of the traditions that BachSoc observes to this day were established by 1960. All of us who have performed with the orchestra in the seasons that have followed are thankful to these musical pioneers for laying the groundwork for what has been regarded has Harvard's finest musical organization.

We hope you enjoy this gallery of posters and articles chronicling BachSoc's formative years. We are particularly grateful to founding conductor Michael Greenebaum for not only his wonderful musical vision and his efforts to bring it to fruition, but also for sharing his special collection of memorabilia with us. Please select any thumbnail image to view a larger, clearer version of that image in a separate browser window. Note that all Crimson archive articles, each of which is viewable in a separate browser window upon selecting the respective link, are copyrighted materials of the Harvard Crimson.

1954-55: BachSoc's Inaugural Season

Michael Greenebaum 55', Founding Music Director

Above is BachSoc's first concert poster for the orchestra's debut performance on a Sunday evening in early November. The Crimson reviewed this unique event noting, "The audience, which filled Paine Hall, expressed enthusiastic approval of this ambitious and well-planned venture. Crimson Article - November 9, 1954

Above are the poster and program for the second concert, offered on Sunday, February 13 at Paine Hall. Notably, the concert featured a premier performance of a Harvard Undergraduate, Fugue by John Austin, the first of many undergraduate works that BachSoc has premiered throughout the years. The Crimson wrote: "It was obvious from beginning to end that conductor Michael Greenebaum and every one of his players love to make music." Images of the original article appear below; the article can be read online: Crimson Article - February 15, 1955.

The season continued with a performance on Sunday, April 17, once again at Paine Hall. A poster and program (both enlargable) are presented below. By now the Crimson regarded the Bach Society Orchestra as "a student ensemble of increasing finesse devoted to the chamber literature." Crimson Article - April 20, 1955

This impressive season of innovative programming and exciting collaborations concluded with a concert with the Columbia Chamber Music Society Chorus at the Fogg Museum on Sunday, May 8 that featured Mozart's Requiem Mass. Interestingly enough, BachSoc would later collaborate with the recently formed Columbia Bach Society Orchestra and Chorus in January 2004 at Columbia.

1955-56 Season

Michael Greenebaum 55', Founding Music Director

The Bach Society Orchestra's second season began on Sunday, October 30 at Paine Hall (Crimson Article - November 1, 1955). The season continued with another unique collaboration, this time with BachSoc assisting the Glee Clubs of Harvard and Smith College in the first American performance of Mozart's Vesperae de Dominica at Sanders Theatre on Friday, December 2nd.

The Crimson article appearing above-right can be read online: Crimson Article - December 5, 1955.

BachSoc's May 6, 1956 performance marked the final concert conducted by Greenebaum and the introduction of BachSoc's second conductor, Michael Senturia. The two-sided program is pictured above, with the back side listing the members of the fledgling BachSoc. "(Greenebaum) chose as exciting a program as possible, and the orchestra responded with its finest performance to date. The large audience evidently agreed, according the group a prolonged and vociferous standing ovation at the concert's end." Crimson Article - May 8, 1956

1956-57 Season

Michael Senturia '58, Music Director

Of Sunday, October 28th's performance of Handel's Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 4: "Senturia drove his strings to the kind of relentless rhythm that can make Baroque music so exciting." Crimson Article - October 30, 1956

BachSoc is featured in the Music Department Festival in honor of the opening of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library on Friday, December 7, 1956 at Memorial Church. Crimson Article - December 7, 1956

Following the Sunday, March 3rd performance featuring pianist Kenneth McIntosh, "the more than capacity audience called conductor and soloist back six times. It was indeed a concert of professional quality, and as fine an evening of student orchestral playing as I have heard in Cambridge over many years." Crimson Article - March 5, 1957

Of Sunday, May 5th's season-ending concert: "It would be hard to imagine a better program than the one played by the Bach Society Orchestra Sunday night. Consisting of Bach and Mozart, with excellent soloists, the concert played to a packed house; the audience was obviously prepared to enjoy itself, and it was not disappointed." Crimson Article - May 8, 1957

1957-58 Season

Michael Senturia '58, Music Director

Crimson Article - December 16, 1957

Famous pianist and conductor Nadia Boulanger conducted a performance with members of BachSoc, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Radcliffe Choral Society. "She had the complete sympathy of the musicians, whose grasp of her rhythms and nuances amounted almost to mystical communion." Crimson Article - April 24, 1958

The season ended with conducting appearances by former conductor Michael Greenebaum, outgoing conductor Michael Senturia, and future conductor John Harbision. The highlight of the evening was an outstanding performance of Haydn's Cello Concerto by Charles Forbes. "The orchestra, under Senturia, has never sounded better. Full and rich without being heavy, they displayed a tone which can come only from a coherent yet relaxed ensemble." Crimson Article - May 13, 1958

1958-59 Season

John Harbison '60, Music Director

Crimson Article - October 27, 1958

On Friday, December 12, BachSoc again joined forces with the Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society for a Christmas concert at Sanders Theatre. Crimson Article - December 15, 1958

The review of the Sunday, March 9 concert concluded with optimism that BachSoc "will not become assimilated into the larger Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra next year." With no offense to HRO, we are all grateful that this never happened. Crimson Article - March 9, 1959

Crimson Article - May 5, 1959

1959-60 Season

John Harbison '60, Music Director

"The Bach Society Orchestra played its first concert of the year with verve and discretion." Crimson Article - November 3, 1959

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was scheduled to attend a special rehearsal of BachSoc on the afternoon of Saturday, November 14. Crimson Article - November 9, 1959


The Bach Society Orchestra hosts two annual competitions - the Concerto competition and the Composition competition - to promote the recognition of musical excellence at Harvard.

More Details

Interested in auditioning for the 2019-2020 season?
To learn more about the process, please click on the link below.

Support the Orchestra

For 60 years, the Bach Society Orchestra has been made possible by people like you. Consider making a gift to the Orchestra to support the music you love.

Learn more

Bach Society Orchestra
Music Building
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138


©2021 The Harvard University Bach Society Orchestra

The Bach Society Orchestra is a a student-run organization at Harvard College; The Harvard name is a trademark of the President and Fellows of Harvard College and are used with permission of Harvard University.