The Bach Vespers series in association with St. Anne’s Lutheran Church & Music at Hill will start again on 24 September. We will be performing cantata BWV 138, Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?, alongside now familiar German baroque music from the Lutheran ecclesiastical tradition.
The cantata demands that the audience consider the world around them and, to illustrate, refers to ravens. This is an ideal opportunity for us to rope in our near neighbours, the famous resident ravens of the Tower of London (at the other end of Eastcheap). We had a word with one of the Wardens there who offered us a photograph showing one of the birds looking up across the front of the Tower itself. For more pictures and other fun insights, do visit his Twitter feed.
Bach Vespers aims to reunite sacred German baroque music with the context for which it was written. You can find out more about this unique series via the St. Anne’s webpage here. It’s a particularly interesting time to come along and experience these events (for free) as the Church prepares to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the founding movement of the Lutheran and subsequently Protestant Church.
We are very pleased that St. Anne’s Lutheran Church & the music society Music-at-Hill have teamed up to engage us for the final Bach Vespers before the summer break. It’s an exciting one for us all to be part of, as it comprises part of the 22nd St. Anne’s International Bach Festival, run under the umbrella of Music-at-Hill.
Bach’s cantata BWV 150, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, is a wonderful curio. Cited as the first sacred cantata that Bach ever wrote, it is thought to date from 1707, towards the end of his tenure as organist of the New Church in Arnstadt. It has little dedicated solo writing for voice, and modest orchestration – it is like an extended, accompanied motet. We’re looking forward to performing it in the service of Bach Vespers on 23 July at 6.30pm at St. Mary-at-Hill Church in the City of London.
At the end of next month we are going to perform a special work in J. S. Bach’s sacred cantata canon. For a long time it was thought that Bach wrote his ‘Refugee Cantata’ to commemorate the expulsion of Protestants from Salzburg in 1731. In fact Bach wrote the piece as part of the third (now largely lost) cycle of cantatas in Leipzig, five years earlier in 1726.
Nonetheless the themes of the cantata resonate today. Contemporary London is a goal and indeed home for many seeking refuge from conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet London has always been a forward-thinking, inclusive metropolitan destination for so many; one only has to go as far as Liverpool Street Station (right) to be reminded of the Kindertransport that provided an escape for some many fleeing Germany during the Second World War.
More than this, the fact that this, Bach’s cantata for the first Sunday after Trinity, Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, is associated with the persecution of Protestant Christians 200 years after a Papal bull excommunicated Martin Luther – and that Luther was himself cast out for precipitating the Reformation 500 years ago this year – gives us pause to consider the words of the opening chorus afresh:
Break your bread with the hungry
and those who are in misery take into your house!
If you see someone naked,
then clothe them and do not recoil in disgust.
The performance of J. S. Bach cantata BWV 39, the ‘Refugee Cantata’, will be as part of a service of Lutheran Vespers in association with St. Anne’s Lutheran Church, hosted at the church of St. Mary-at-Hill, near Monument, EC3R 8EE on 25 June 2017 at 6.30pm. This event is part of Refugee Week 19-25 June, more information via refugeeweek.org.uk