'Bach & Friends' at the Charles

"I'm in heaven," says Baltimore filmmaker Michael Lawrence, whose documentary "Bach & Friends" will receive its local debut Sunday. "Screenings are coming all the time."

The film features more than two dozen musicians, including composer Philip Glass, violinist Joshua Bell, bassist Edgar Meyer and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, discussing their passion for Bach. Showings are scheduled in Virginia, Northern California and Holland this fall; Washington and Los Angeles may soon be added to the list.

Remarkable performances are threaded throughout the film, which had its public premiere in New York in May (it's also out on DVD).

The Baltimore premiere is presented in conjunction with the Peabody Conservatory (Lawrence earned a degree in guitar there in 1970) and Cinema Sundays at the Charles Theatre. There will be a live performance during the presentation by young American pianist Hilda Huang, who can be seen in the film playing Bach in the social hall of a Baltimore home for seniors.

People who already have a devotion to Bach — playing his music is "as close to religion as I get," says pianist Simone Dinnerstein in the documentary — should find Lawrence's work reaffirming and entertaining. Others may well be inspired by the enthusiasm on screen to seek out more experiences with the composer who laid much of the framework of Western music.

"Bach & Friends" will be shown at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. Doors open at 9:45 a.m., when bagels and coffee will be served. There will be a Q&A with the filmmaker after the screening. Tickets are $15 at the door. Call 410 727-3464 or go to cinemasundays.com.

Tim Smith

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