This weekend a group in town is performing J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. If you had gone to church in Leipzig in 1729 at the church of St. Thomas, where some guy named Bach was in charge of the music, the Good Friday service would be the musical and liturgical climax of the year. During the three-hour musical presentation of the events of Christ's death (church was regularly three hours long) there would be soloists, a double choir, an orchestra, a chorus of boys, and, by my count, twelve places where the entire congregation could join in singing a familiar hymn, or Chorale. If you don't count the places where the same tune is sung to different words, there are actually only six Chorale tunes represented in the entire three hour drama.
My offering to you this night is a simple rendition of these six tunes for solo piano.
Herzliebster Jesu Ah, Holy Jesus!
Ich bin's, ich sollte bussen It is I, I who should be sorry
Erkenne mich, mein Huter I will stand with you now
Was mein Gott will, das g'sche' allzeit What my God wants, may it always happen
Mir hat die Welt truglich gericht't The World has judged me falsely
Bin ich gleich won dir gewichen If I have ever abandoned you...
It is perhaps an unusual, and certainly not a historical approach, to play these wordlessly on an instrument Bach only knew in embryo. But I hope they bring you peace.
Easter is barely more than a day away now. This organist is going to bed!