It is the 28th of July 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
On a recent show, a listener asked me to break down the greatest musicians by denomination or affiliation. For that question, I went pop. And I did this, in part, because of the actual question: “Which church has produced the best music by a single musician?” Is a slam dunk. The answer is Johann Sebastian Bach amongst the German Lutherans.
And yes, I have worshipped and taught amongst Lutherans for a long time, but don’t take my word for it. You can hear it from the English Anglicans as well. Let me explain:
The Lutheran Church honors church musicians on the 28th of July by remembering Bach, Handel, and Heinrich Schütze. The Anglican Church has also set aside the 28th of July to commemorate church musicians: Bach, Handel, and Henry Purcell. So today church musicians are being celebrated across the English Channel and across the church. Why does this prove the superiority of Bach? Because this is the day he died. His remembrance dictates the date for remembering church musicians, and not just in Germany or amongst the Lutherans.
Bach is the GOAT and today we remember him on the anniversary of this death in 1750.
We’ve talked on this show about some of his pieces (the Mass in B Minor and St. Matthew’s Passion) and today I’m going to tell you 3 things you might not have known about the great composer
1. He loved Coffee. The stuff was new to Germany and such a hit with Bach that he wrote a cantata about coffee. His “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” or “Be Still, Stop chattering” is about a woman who loves coffee and sings the following line:
Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!
2. Bach was a hot-headed rabble-rouser. He spent time in jail when he was bypassed for a promotion and took another job instead. On account of his uncouth behavior, the Duke made him spend 4 weeks in prison as a punishment. He is also famous for having challenged a player in his orchestra to a sword fight. Bach is said to have told the man that he played the bassoon like a billy goat.
3. HIs life was one of personal tragedy. He lost both of his parents at the age of ten and was made a widower with 4 children when his first wife suddenly died. Bach eventually died as a result of botched eye surgery. The surgeon, whose quack methods involved droplets of pigeons' blood, would also blind George Handel.
Of course, we know Bach as the soundtrack to our sacred lives from services, hymns, weddings, and funerals. And of course, here on this show, you have heard his Unaccompanied Cello Suite in G Major bring us in and take us out over 800 times. Consider throwing on a little Bach sometime today, maybe contemplate a piece of his and how it has interacted with your own life and faith.
We remember the GOAT, JS Bach on the anniversary of his death in 1750.
The last word for today comes from Psalm 96:
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of July 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man More delicious than a thousand kisses/ Milder than muscatel wine, he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by the one time bassist for the prog-metal band Pigeons’ Blood, I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.