Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Is it bad to be blogging about stuff that isn't much to do with gardening? Partly because in my case there hasn't actually been much gardening to do: those of you with large numbers of clematis to tidy etc may have been busy but I have just been enjoying a bit of a winter break and a chance to get stuck into some really concerted writing efforts. However even my idea of hard work looks paltry compared to the ridiculous work rate of one Johann Sebastian Bach.

For those who don't know, besides all the famous Passions and concertos that we love by Bach, the great man also wrote sets of church music for orchestra and choir called 'cantatas', one for each Sunday of the liturgical year. He set appropriate texts and wrote exquisite music. But here's the amazing thing: he didn't just do this once. He did it almost three times!

But when today I went to look for the right cantata for this weekend in the Lutheran calendar, I found something funny. Remember how early Easter was this year? And have you also noticed how many Sundays there are this November? Well basically in most liturgical years the church would only make it to 24th Sunday after Trinity before Advent would come around. Or perhaps 25th at a push. This year, though, we are on 26th! And next weekend will be 27th!

So obviously in most normal years you would never get to 26, let alone 27. So quite wisely, Bach only composed one set of cantatas for the 26th and 27th Sundays. He may have been a hard worker, but he wasn't going to go over the top. 

But for those interested, next weekend's is "Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!" BWV70 (which has loads of trumpets and is lovely and Crimbley); and the 30th's is "Wake up, cries the watchman's voice", BWV 140. Waiting and watchful seems like a good description of what we have to be in the garden this time of year. So maybe my post was a little bit more to do with gardening than I thought.


Alex said...

I think it was Michael Holroyd who said that he'd worked out how long it would take to actually read everything that George Bernard Shaw had written and that it would take several decades (he wrote a quarter of a million letters for a start) - now that's what I call power blogging. Of course Shaw died of injuries he picked up while chopping back a tree so that's gardening too isn't it?

Zoë said...

The Blue Coat I went to had us singing these most mornings before breakfast, twice on Sundays and occasionally we would sing ( School Choir) in Bham Cathederal or Tewkesbury Abbey too. Nothing sends a shiver down my spine as much as Church Music.

This has to be my most fave though, sorry it's Barber rather than Bach though, an arrangement of Agnus Dei

Video is a bit gruesome in places, recording is fabulous though

Zoë said...

oops forgot the link! Doh!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Poor Bach, he was German and therefore pretty gruntlich, poor man. It can't have been much fun to be such an avant-garde workaholic. ;-)

BTW did you get your new, smaller sized jeans?

emmat said...

Oh my god are you telling me Michael "Lazy" Holroyd didn't actually READ all those words before writing that big book!? Now I know where that naughty Joe Swift got his naughty "skipping-the-hard-digging" ways.

I love ze church music, and having been to Kings College Cambridge I like a bit of Coll Reg, the piece written by Howells for the choir there.

I don't know Yolanda I always think that it sounds like Bach had the lifework balance quite well sorted - lots of kids and wives, lots of students and old friends always staying, lots of musical instruments and books left in his will... Maybe because Germany was still a twinkling in someone's eye at that point...

And yes I got my smaller jeans and it's great except they show a bit more of my lower back than i was planning to. Or should that be, "bum"?