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Showing posts from March, 2017

Bach's St. Matthew Passion: Lent Study Group

Every year my church organizes some small study groups that meet once a week during Lent. This year I signed up for a group led by my choir director that is doing an in-depth study of Bach's magnificent St. Matthew Passion. I wasn't familiar with this work at all (I did attend a performance of its twin, Bach's St. John Passion, last year), so I was really intrigued to see what we would learn.

So far, we've talked about the history of the work, both in Bach's lifetime and after his death. I was surprised to learn that I already knew the tunes to several of the chorale sections in the work. It turns out that Bach took some older Lutheran hymns and reharmonized them for the passion. The work is extremely dramatic and theatrical and straddles the line between opera (which was forbidden in Protestant Germany) and church hymns.

I'm really enjoying the study group so far. The work is 3 hours long, so just listening to it is a big time commitment, but it's also a j…