and we’ll be celebrating by performing lots of Bach at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu this Holy Week and Easter. There are certain pieces that I play every year, and that includes works by the birthday boy, 327 years young today.
On Maundy Thursday, I always play “O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” (O Lamb of God most holy) from the Great Eighteen Chorales as the prelude. It’s the last big piece you’ll hear before the organ is silenced after the Gloria. This is one of those compositions that is near and dear to me because I played it for my Master’s recital at Westminster Choir College eons ago. It has three verses, with the melody appearing first in the soprano, then in the alto, then finally in the pedal, a steady downward movement perhaps signifying Christ’s descent into death.
The organ does not sound again until the Easter Proclamation of the Easter Vigil (“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”) and for more than 30 years I have played an abbreviated version of Bach’s “Komm, heiliger Geist” (Come, holy Spirit) as the bells of the church are rung during this glorious moment. Yup, I’ll use the zimbelstern too!
On Easter Day, for the prelude I will play the Sinfonia from Bach’s Cantata 35 (“Geist und Seele wird verwirret”) with the Bach Chamber Orchestra. The major work on this day, though, will be Bach’s monumental Motet No. 1, “Singet dem Herrn” (Sing unto the Lord) for double choir and orchestra. We will split it into three parts for the service, the first part at the offertory, the second during communion, and the last part as the postlude. When the LCH Choir first learned this work in 1982, we thought it was the most difficult choral piece we had ever encountered! Now, though, I think of it as a piece of cake! The choir will also sing this work on the next Abendmusiken concert, Saturday, April 21st at 7:30 pm.
To celebrate Bach’s birthday, the Wall Street Journal today published a story about organs and interviewed Juilliard organist, Paul Jacobs, who has played recitals in Hawaii twice and has been our houseguest. The article is called, “Great Music Needs No Apology.”
Amen to that, and Happy Birthday, Bach!