Tonight we invited Daniel Aune to come visit the Beckerath organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. He is the Director of Music and Organist at Christ Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland and played the weekly noontime recital at St. Andrew’s Cathedral today. I unfortunately was unable to attend the concert, but Carl was there and said his playing was outstanding and very elegant.
In reading his bio which was distributed to local organists a few days ago, this part jumped out at me: Mr. Aune was awarded the first-ever Lecture-Recital Prize at Eastman for his thesis “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Leipzig Chorales: New Thoughts on Their Development and Function.”
Naturally I immediately wanted to talk with him about his dissertation, and what insights he had gleaned about the Great Eighteen Chorales, since I’ve been practicing these pieces for two concerts in August. I found out that he had researched the worship services of Bach’s times and most likely these chorale preludes were not used as hymn introductions (choralvorspiel) but were played during the distribution of communion. What was interesting to me was that Daniel said that this time in the worship service was kind of noisy, with people talking aloud and walking around. (Not too much different from today’s services!)
When I heard this, the light bulb went off! No wonder so many of these pieces are very lengthy — many of them are 7 or 8 minutes long. More importantly, many of the chorales are very prayerful and introspective in nature — perfect communion music! And they seem to tie into the major church holidays when you might have more people in church to commune. For example, think of the three settings of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Savior of the nations, come) for Advent, or the three settings of Allein Gott der Höh sei Ehre (All glory be to God on high) or the two settings of Komm, heiliger Geist (Come, holy Spirit) for Pentecost.
In fact, the hymn Jesus Christus unser Heiland (Jesus Christ, our Savior) was one of the seven most frequently sung communion hymns. I haven’t yet definitely decided upon the order of the program, except that I will play Jesus Christus unser Heiland as the last piece in the second concert. It’s one of my favorite pieces, especially with its surprising chromaticism. Wonder what Bach’s parishioners thought of it?! Or perhaps they were too busy talking to pay attention to it!
We found out that Daniel Aune is also a member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and will be attending the national biennial conference in Valparaiso, IN in July. We’ll be there, too!