Ben is looking forward to sharing with the Dayspring Community as they hold their Holy Week Twilight Retreat, as he presents some reflections on J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
Johann Sebastian Bach is not only one of the giants of the musical world, but also of the Christian church. Sometimes referred to as the fifth evangelist, Swedish bishop Nathan Söderblom called his cantatas “the Fifth Gospel”. In this retreat, we will reflect on the glimpses we find of Bach’s own spirituality by examining his great work “St Matthew’s Passion.” Violinist and Music Teacher Ben Clapton will lead us in this retreat.
Bach wrote a huge number of church cantatas – his Nekrolog (an obituary written in 1754 by Johan Friedrich Agricola and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach) mentions five year-cycles of cantatas for all Sundays and feast days. This would amount to at least 275 cantatas. However, we only have copies of around two thirds of that number, as some have gone missing, or have only survived as fragments. His Passions – while related to his Church Cantatas – are considered a seperate category of his works. The St Luke Passion, BWV 246, is thought to be Bach’s copy of an anonymous composers Passion, with very little material original to Bach’s hand. The St John Passion was composed during Bach’s time in Leipzig, using the text of the Brockes Passion for the arias. The St Matthew and St Mark passions use libretto’s by Picander, however we have no autograph of the St Mark passion and rely on reconstructions.
The St Matthew Passion is longer and more complex that the St John passion. Using a double orchestra and chorus, it is considered to be more reflective and resigned, as opposed to the more realistic and anguished St John Passion.
The Holy Week Twilight Retreat is hosted by the Dayspring Community, an ecumenical, open, contemplative community that focusses on contemplative spirituality, love for God and love for their neighbour, particularly the marginalises and those considered to be the ‘least of these’.
Sunday 28 March, 2021
St Peter and Emmaus Church, Mt Hawthorn