Monday Morning Music Ministry

Start Your Week with a Spiritual Song in Your Heart

Instead of the Yule Log Video…

12-22-12

An early Christmas present. If you are one of the many celebrants who finds joy or solace or peace, each season, by playing Handel’s “Messiah” or letting the TV screen show the never-ending burning Yule log, here is an alternative.

Thanks to uncountable technologies, and innumerable traditions, you can enjoy a marvelous musical and spiritual experience by watching, or just listening to, the “Christmas Oratorio” of Johann Sebastian Bach. One of the greatest pieces of music in Western culture, in or out of churches, Bach’s oratorio is a full composition, like Handel’s, in many parts. There are full orchestra and full choir movements, solos, narrations, and instrumental sections. The words are from the Bible’s story of Christ’s birth; the music is some of the most stirring you will ever hear.

The very first part, “Exult! Rejoice!” (Jauchzet, Frohlocket in German) is an astounding cascade of choir and orchestra led by the motif of tympani drums’ notes.

Like the “Messiah,” it is in several parts and lasts almost three hours. It originally was performed in Bach’s St Nicholas Church, and some nights in St Thomas Church, in Leipzig, in 1734-35, essentially through the 12 nights of Christmas, in parts, beginning on Christmas Day.

Of several excellent performances on the web, I have chosen to share a recent video recorded at that very St Nicholas Church. See the grand Baroque setting as it appeared when first performed… listen to the period instruments, simulating the actual sounds of Bach’s music… enjoy the camera’s examination of the church’s details, and the community’s reverent models and landscapes of the Christmas story.

There are no English subtitles of the German texts, but you know the old, old story! You will hear the names of Jesus and Mary, Abraham and Old Testament prophets, and references to God and angels. The order of the six constituent cantatas’ subjects are: the Birth; the Annunciation to the Shepherds; the Adoration of the Shepherds; the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus; the Journey of the Magi; the Adoration of the Magi. I thought it better to be “home” in Bach’s own church, and to see the re-creation of a Baroque celebration, than to choose a performance-only video, or one of the versions with one old painting on display over the entire performance.

I hope this brings extra joy, special comfort, and stirring inspiration to you this Christmas season. Bach has been called “the Fifth Evangelist,” and works like this illustrate why. Georg Christoph Biller leads the Thomanerchor and the Gewandhausorchester Leizig.

Click: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio

Category: Christianity, Hope, Jesus

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3 Responses

  1. Carol Vargo says:

    Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Carol

  2. mikey says:

    I’ll tell ya, Rick, this is one of the best presents I received this Christmastime! A wonderful soundtrack for a slow work day – peeking in occasionally at the wonder of the concert’s setting.

    Thanks! A stupendous new year to you and yours…

    Mike(y)

  3. Thank you, Mikey. AND… for any MMMMers who haven’t checked out the list on the right side of the home page, find “Mikey’s Funnies,” check it out, and subscribe. Mike Atkinson sends daily doses of humor and encouragement; all clean, all funny, all wise. They are more than chuckles, bringing you share-able bits of wisdom and wit every single day! How does the boy do it? Equal proportions: half-wisdom and half-w… oh, wait. Trust me, you will love it.

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About The Author

... Rick Marschall is the author of 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia magazine called him "perhaps America's foremost authority on popular culture") to history and criticism; country music; television history; biography; and children's books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals and magazine articles; he was co-author of "The Secret Revealed" with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. Read More