The Bach cantata legacy

It’s amazing (and perhaps a little sad) to think that this Sunday’s Bach Vespers service, February 20, 2011 will be the last scheduled Bach cantata (BWV 111) that Carl Crosier will conduct during his tenure as Cantor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. It will mark the 93rd performance of a Bach cantata with orchestra, but we can count only 70 individual cantatas from the years 1973 to 2011 , since some of them have been performed more than once.

Bach Cantata vespers

Bach Cantata vespers

We know that Bach cantatas were performed at LCH prior to 1973, because we found the scores in the library, but we don’t have any information about the circumstances or on what dates they were performed.

As many of you know, Carl is a bean counter, so he has been meticulous about recording what cantatas were sung on what date. In fact, if you REALLY want to know the nitty-gritty details, you can click BachCantatasList for a complete list of titles and dates performed at LCH. It’s quite frankly, overwhelming.

The first cantata was on December 9, 1973, Cantata 140, Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme. The cantata which has been performed the most is Cantata 80, Ein feste Burg which has been done five times on October 13, 1984, October 28, 1984, October 26, 1986, October 15, 2000 and October 29, 2000, always around Reformation Day.

Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit was performed on the Bach’s 300th birthday celebration on March 17, 1985 and for two funerals, one on April 21, 1990 for chorister Walter Williams and the other on September 9, 2007 for alto Carol Arnold.

Other cantatas sung at funerals were Cantata 150, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, on August 15, 1997 for bass chorister Dr. Juris Bergmanis and on June 3, 2009 for organist Robert T. Anderson. Of course the funeral performances were done on about three days notice!

Several Bach cantatas were done as part of conventions of the American Guild of Organists (Cantata 137, Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König on July 19, 1997) and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (Cantata 93, Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten on August 7, 2003) when they had their meetings in Hawaii.

Considering the sheer volume of Bach cantatas done at LCH, though, is nothing compared to 200 or so surviving Bach cantata compositions. Imagine, he had to write a complete cantata every week with no music notation software, and most importantly, no copy machine to copy the parts! That’s what he had all those children for!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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