You may remember from my recent post, “A mighty fortress,” that I was startled to learn about Bach’s exhumation in the 1950s, when his body was moved from St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig to St. Thomas Church, in front of the altar.
“Apparently Bach was buried in a pauper’s grave with two other people. He then was moved to the cemetery at St. John’s in Leipzig, a church which no longer exists. In the 1950s when it was decided to move him to St. Thomas, the science of DNA was not yet in use. So they examined his bones and they found out he had “organists disease.”
I’ll show you again the plaque that was in the Bach House in Eisenach.
In May, after I flew back from Seattle after attending a party to remember Carl Crosier and a concert of music by Peter Hallock, I developed terrible sciatica due to flying in economy, in a seat which I call “a modern day torture device.” So I visited both my primary care physician and a massage therapist to find about relieving some of the pain. This past week, I had follow-up appointments with both of them and told them my learning about “organists disease,” which may or may not be related to my sciatica.
Wouldn’t you know it, tonight I sat down to read the latest issue of The Diapason, an international monthly devoted to the organ, the harpsichord, carillon and church music, and found an interview with organist Kimberly Marshall of Arizona State University. I was really intrigued to find this question:
You not only work to stay in shape yourself, but you have created short videos to educate others on ways of preventing pain and injury. What led you to promote exercises for organists?
“I am very committed to helping organists stay fit and able to play the organ without pain. To this end, I have been developing some simple exercises to combat the typical problems encountered by organists spending prolonged periods of time in bad positions. By working to open the chest and strengthen the rhomboids—upper back muscles—it is possible to correct for the kyphosis (humped upper back) that often plagues organists. It is also necessary to make the hips more flexible and to strengthen the abdominal wall in order to have a stable core that grounds the body. With a strong core and good position at the organ, the arms and legs can move freely, enabling one to play for hours without repetitive strain. . . My students are often kyphotic (hunched upper back), and they usually have tight lower backs from the strength required to support themselves on the bench during hours of practice. These are problems affecting almost all organists.” (THE DIAPASON, JULY 2015, page 23)
Perhaps if Bach had done these exercises, we wouldn’t have been able to identify his body!
I heard also that the people at St. Thomas are unwilling to have further examination of the body buried in front of the altar (now that we have DNA analysis available), because what if it turns out not to be Bach?!