We’re not exactly snowed in, but most things locally have been canceled today including my own choir rehearsal this evening. I had a text from Jane Bosco who is our next Grace Notes recitalist. She let me know that Mary at the church office gave her a key. Woo hoo! This means I don’t have to meet her to let her in today.
So we’re snug in our little home in Western Michigan. Bread is baking in the oven. Eileen is messing around with her looms.
I have been thinking about settings of Vater Unser Himmelreich (Our Fahter who art in heaven) by Bach. A while back I became entranced with his difficult setting of the hymn tune in the Klavierubung III. It reminds me very much of a cantata movement. It is in five voice texture. Initially I found it difficult to keep hearing the long notes of the chorale which are presented in canon in the right and left hand. Both hands add ornate obbligatos so that each has quite a handful of stuff to keep going (so to speak). Then the feet keep a bass line going.
The canons in the hands seem to alternate which voice goes first. Very elegant stuff. But I need to get to know this chorale better. My understanding of baroque chorale preludes on the organ is that when they were written both the composer and the listener could hear the melodies of the chorales very clearly because they were so familiar to them. To get to that mindset, it is helpful to drench oneself with the melody until it is second nature.
Thinking about doing this I stumbled across Bach’s Cantata BWV 101. Each movement of this wonderful cantata has the melody of Vater Unser very prominently rendered either in the voices of the orchestra.
The text of this cantata has nothing to do with the Our Father text of Vater Unser. The Bach Cantata site which I use provides this info:
“Cantata BWV 101 ‘Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott’ (Take from us, you faithful God) for the 10th Sunday after Trinity. Although Dürr dates this cantata as far back as 1724 and Whittaker; following Terry, gives the date as late as 1745, when Frederick the Great’s second invasion of Saxony occurred, the libretto does stress the scourge of war as well as the time of plague in 1584, when Martin Moller wrote the hymn.”
You can hear plague and war in the music and the texts. last night I lay in bed and listened to the entire cantata following the online vocal score (pdf to it).
Bach’s beautiful music provides an antidote to the inanity of every day life and Christianity in Trump Amerika.
We are planning on basically staying in today. However, I am tempted to go over to the church (via the library which is open despite the weather) and play through the great organ chorale based on this hymn.
As I sit snug in my house with my beautiful wife, beautiful music, and fresh bread, I wonder about people on the streets in urban America where the conditions are so dire. There’s a guy in the article above who explains clearly why he’s standing on the streets of Chicago with wet feet and hand warmers in each hand instead of going to one of the shelters.
“You don’t understand,” Mr. Neeley said. “A lot of us don’t go to the shelters because of bedbugs, we don’t go because people steal from you, we don’t go because you can’t even really sleep in the shelter. But my feet are cold, and these clothes are all I’ve got.”
I’m reminded of my Dad’s description of living on the street when he was attending the Urban Training Center in Chicago years ago. It is unbelievable and tragic the way we handle the homeless in the USA today.