Oh sing to the Lord. Psalm 96:1
July 28th is the Commemoration of three Lutheran musicians: Heinrich Schutz (1585–1672), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Handel is known for writing the Messiah, an oratorio about the life of Christ. An oratorio is a large work on a biblical theme for orchestra and voices performed without costumes, scenery, or action. The first part of the Messiah, about the nativity of Jesus, is often performed separately at Christmas. Handel was born at Halle, Germany. He traveled and eventually settled in London where he became a British citizen in 1727. Although he regularly attended St. George’s Church anover Square (Anglican), he said of his Lutheran heritage that he would “die a member of that communion, whether true or false, in which he was born and bred.”
Heinrich Schutz was born a hundred years before Handel and Bach. After study in Italy, he settled at the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany. Schutz brought an expressive element to the severe style he learned in Italy. He is the greatest German composer before Bach and Handel.
Johann Sebastian Bach spent his life in Germany and was a prolific composer of vocal and instrumental music. After serving several Lutheran churches as well as five years at Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen, Bach spent the twenty-eight years of the rest of his life as Director of Music of the four Lutheran churches in Leipzig and teacher at the school of the Thomaskirche. His Mass in B minor has been called the greatest artistic creation of western civilization. The Mass in B minor takes about two hours to perform. It has many parts that are enhanced arrangements of thirty years of his earlier music, a summation of his life’s work. “Et incarnatus est” of the Mass was Bach’s last composition written when he was blind. The Mass was first published in 1845 almost a hundred years after it was composed. The first complete performance was in 1859 by Karl Riedel and the Riedel-Verein in Leipzig. The first American performance was in 1900 by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The first recording was in 1929 by Albert Coates and the London Symphony.
Soli Deo gloria (S. D. g) is a Latin phrase for glory to God alone. Bach often wrote it at the end of compositions, particularly those for the church. We can take a lesson from Bach and do the same: do the best we can and dedicate it to