Do we really need Bach in the subways?

Do we really need Bach in the subways?


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2019

We have been contacted by the Communications Manager for Bach in the Subways, ‘a global music movement committed to spreading the work of J.S. Bach in public spaces’.

She warns that ‘in 2019, we’ll be taking over public spaces during the month of March, to celebrate Bach’s 334th birthday! We’ve had musicians in over 40 major cities around the world participate for nearly a decade now.’

Do we think this is a good idea?

I’m all in favour of poetry on the London Underground and read it whenever I ride.

But Bach amid the subterranean racket of wheel shrieks and commuter squeeze? Fighting to get heard amid the hubbub of working lives?

Does that do much good for the music?



  • Caravaggio says:

    Bad, stupid idea

  • Brian says:

    Here in NYC we have performers in many stations and often on the trains themselves. I question whether any organized effort would stand out about all of the rest of the music.

    That being said, our subway system has been in steady decline, and getting from point A to point B is often an ordeal. Some calming Bach might be welcome, assuming it’s well-played.

  • Florent says:

    Re: “We have been contracted by the Communications Manager for Bach in the Subways, ‘a global music movement committed to spreading the work of J.S. Bach in public spaces’.”

    So is Slipped Disc part of this project, perhaps to help get the word out?

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    The Renaissance Street Singers of New York City sing in Grand Central Station in winter when the streets are too cold. In other seasons, they sing on the streets and have no problem competing with traffic noises.

  • Rachelle Goldberg says:

    When I travelled from Hounslow Central station (Picadilly Line) a while ago a Mozart Piano Concerto was being played over the loudspeaker system, in the entrance by the ticket office. I went on line later and discovered that Classical music is being played at a number of Tube stations. There was in fact a forum for people to suggest that certain composers would be more appropriate at different stations!! A couple of months ago on the Central line four musicians got on at a station and performed a jazz piece with backing track before getting off at the next station.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I know of people who forgot to get off at the right station because of listening to classical music, and got into trouble at their work for not showing-up for days due to their cultural interest and were fired. Classical music sometimes demands sacrifice.

  • We are not committed to “spreading the work of J.S. Bach in public spaces.” Apologies for an inaccurate message from our Communications Manager.

    Cellist Dale Henderson began Bach in the Subways as a solo project to get more people to experience live classical music, and then began inviting other musicians to join him for Bach’s birthday. The birthday celebration snowballed and continues in the same spirit every March. Once a year for Bach’s birthday, musicians around the world take their music out to the public to get as many people as possible to experience and hopefully to appreciate live classical music!

  • Novagerio says:

    As the stressful environment the subway usually is, I must say I find nothing more adequately relaxative than passing a young fiddler who’s playing Bach Solo-Sonatas for a few coins…

  • NYYgirl says:

    There is actually quite a lot of Bach played in the NYC subways, sometimes by young kids from music schools, but very often by violinist James Graseck, who has been performing on the subway platforms for (literally) decades. He was one of the first to be licensed as a ‘legal’ subway performer by the MTA. If you are a consistent NYC subway rider hearing selections from the Sonatas & Partitas, played beautifully in what is now called “old school” style, you are most likely hearing James.

  • BitSGetsMyVote says:

    If people never see classical music live, they never know how powerful the art form is. That’s clearly what BitS is about. You’re missing the point. This movement spreads the joy of music and makes it accessible to all.

  • Always found impromptu performances of classical music a bit like a fish out of water. Just not something that lends itself to passby enjoyment. Give me New Orleans street musicians any day!