“Nun komm der Heiden Heiland,” played by Ton Koopman at St. Mary’s, Freiberg, Germany. (We heard this extraordinary organ this past summer!)
If asked who my favorite composer is, I would say without hesitation, J. S. Bach. After conquering the technical challenges of playing his highly complex music, I must say that I feel a tremendous satisfaction when I can comfortably say “I can do this!” But it’s not only the reward of working hard and “delivering the goods” — it’s that the music of Bach can be such of source of comfort, especially in times of trial. It was the music of Bach that my husband, Carl Crosier, turned to when I was in the hospital with complications of a pregnancy. And Bach has music for every conceivable occasion and season!
Last Sunday was not only the Second Sunday of Advent — it was also the second Sunday of the month when we have healing stations available during communion. We already add in a communion hymn, in addition to the choir’s communion motet and my organ voluntary. But sometimes this is not enough music to cover the time it takes for healing. So what did I do? Luckily I had a copy of Bach’s Great Eighteen Chorales on the organ bench. So I quickly turned to the ornamented setting of “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland,” BWV 659 (Savior of the nations, come) — probably one of my favorite Bach chorale preludes of all time. I learned this during college and have played it every Advent since, so the notes are very familiar to me. I embedded a video of organist Ton Koopman playing this piece above.
Another piece of Bach I played yesterday was from the Schübler chorales, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin” BWV 646 (O whither shall I flee) which features the melody in the pedal and a two-part invention for the hands. I also learned this piece in college, and was I ever surprised when I took my entrance exams for graduate school. For the musical dictation portion of the exam where a passage of music is played and you are supposed to write down in musical notation what you hear, guess what was played?! Yes, it was “Wo soll ich fliehen hin” (!) so I aced that one easily.
Talk about Bach delivering you — I’ll never forget the Saturday morning when I got the word that I was supposed to be playing a wedding and it wasn’t on my calendar! The minister had forgotten to tell me about it, and the church was full, waiting for the organist (me!!) to arrive. I drove up to the church as fast as I could, and because I was dressed in shorts, threw on my vestment. There happened to be a copy of Bach’s Little Organ Book (Orgelbüchlein) on the organ console, and I randomly opened the book. What the book opened to was “Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend” BWV 632! I hit a piston and the moment I started to play, the bride started walking down the aisle!
Bach delivered me, yet again.
Organist Ton Koopman plays “Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend”.