Music in Durham

Bach – Ach Herr lass dein lieb Engelein

The final chorale of Bach's St John Passion always lifts my soul, and reminds me of the joy I felt last time I sang it.

I’ve been avoiding the many online performances of Bach’s Passions today – they’re both too weighed down with memories of live performances that I’ve either sung in or watched. I made my Good Friday devotions by watching Parisfal instead, as I’d never seen it before and so there was no baggage to go with it, but I’m dipping into the St John Passion just for the playlist, with the concluding chorale. It offers an ecstatic vision of heaven and hints at the Easter promise of resurrection, lifting the spirits after the quiet pain of the chorus ‘Ruht wohl’ which depicts Christ being laid in the tomb – in contrast to the St Matthew passion that ends with the dark lament.

It’s been eleven years and two days since I last sang Bach’s St John Passion (not that I’m counting or anything…) but I still vividly remember the utter joy I felt singing this last chorale. It was my first oratorio with Durham Singers, it was my first time singing with period instruments and it was the first concert that I did the publicity for (and was a sell-out), and on top of that I had put more work into actually learning it than I had ever done for anything before. I walked off the stage as high as a kite, feeling like I was being borne away on angel wings and wanting to hug everyone in sight.

In keeping with the spirit of today, I’m sharing a virtual social-distancing recording:

The final chorale of Bach's St John Passion always lifts my soul, and reminds me of the joy I felt last time I sang it.


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