This month of Clef Notes we are looking at all things Bach in honor of his upcoming birthday on March 21. Last time we looked at the Baroque period of music, the time during which Bach lived and worked. Did you know that Collegium Cincinnati is holding their second annual Bach Festival this month? Check out their website for exciting opportunities to experience some of Bach’s masterpieces around town.
This Sunday, March 8, Carlton Monroe and the Cincinnati Bach Ensemble will present Bach’s motet Jesu, Meine Freude BWV 227 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 5:00pm. Do you plan on going to this event? This motet was written by Bach shortly following his arrival at Leipzig where he took up the position of Kantor at the Thomaskirche. It is said that the piece was composed for the funeral service of the postmaster’s widow, Johanna Maria Keese. It was typical at that time for composers to write for functions rather than to write art simply for the sake of art. Throughout his life, Bach often wrote works that played important roles in his various careers. For instance, when he worked at churches, he typically wrote pieces for the service (as in this case). When working for the court, he would write pieces for court entertainment.
What is a motet? This musical term changes meaning depending on what era you refer to however during Bach’s day, it typically meant a sacred vocal composition used for liturgical purposes. The Jesu, Meine Freude BWV 227 has eleven movements and is a setting on Johann Franck’s German hymn from the 1650s. Most likely the Thomaskirche choir that Bach directed would have sang this motet and others like it during their services.
Can’t wait until Sunday to hear this work performed live? You can check out a video here: