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March 22, 2018
#WomensWork Feature: Bridget George, Jan Bonge, and Robin Kani
Written by Kate Racculia
Bridget George met Johann Sebastian Bach when she was a child in England, where both of her parents sang in the Oxford Bach Choir. “I learned the profound depths and joyful exhilaration of Bach’s music,” she says, “and discovered how learning to play and sing it and share it with others enriched all of our lives.”
She’s now the executive director of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem—the oldest Bach choir in America—where her mission is to inspire an appreciation of the aesthetic and spiritual value of Bach’s music through performance, education, and community outreach. She joined the organization as executive director in 1997, attracted by its wonderful legacy, “and by the extraordinary leadership and musical excellence of its current artistic director and conductor Greg Funfgeld.”
George’s career in the Lehigh Valley arts community has spanned four decades. She came to the United States in the 1970s to visit her brother, John Hare, a philosophy professor at Lehigh University, who also sang in The Choir. That same summer she met her future husband, Bill George, with whom she and others founded Touchstone Theatre.
She cites several exceptional women in the arts as sources of inspiration through the years, for their accomplishments, devotion to music and theater, and exemplary community spirit—Jan Bonge, one of two women presidents in the 120-year history of The Bach Choir; Robin Kani, principal flautist of the Bach Festival Orchestra since Funfgeld became conductor in 1983; and Jennie Gilrain of the Touchstone Theatre ensemble and a fourth grade teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District. “At times,” says George, “it can be very challenging to be a woman in the workplace, but have faith that there is time and space for family, individual creative explorations, and different kinds of study and service along the way. Be daring but also kind to yourself and others.”
George is excited to be a part of The Choir’s continued growth, particularly the organization’s affiliation with the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus, and the planned merger between them. The Bach Choir and Bel Canto, led by founder/director Joy Hirokawa and now in its twenty-fifth season, will be, together, even greater than the sum of their parts.
Cultivating a lifelong passion for the choral arts is a charge dear to George’s heart. Singing with The Choir at every Monday night rehearsal, it’s clear that her work springs from a true love and understanding of music. In her role as Executive Director, she cares for the artists and administrators, as well as the Guarantors, board members and partners whose collaboration keeps an organization vital. The child who met J.S. Bach in Oxford is now a woman working daily to enhance the lives of everyone in the community through music. The Bach Choir, and its enduring history in Bethlehem, is in very good hands.