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Anticipating Chancel Choir Music for All Saints Sunday – November 5, 2023

Updated: Oct 27, 2023


“God’s own time is the time appointed us” is one translation of the German, “Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit.” -- Cantata BWV 106 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The young organist composed this work in 1707 or 1708 for a funeral service. The Chancel Choir will present the cantata in the 8:00AM and 10:30AM services on November 5. Soloists will be: Jill Rye, Margaret Schnute, Wes Ague, and Andrew Rye; Jay Yau will serve as organist.


TEXTS

Chorus: God’s time is best. In him we live, move and are.

In him we die at the appointed time.

Tenor solo: O Lord, teach us to be mindful that we must perish, that we may seek wisdom.

Bass solo: Make ready your house, for you shall die and live on earth no longer.

Chorus: It is the ancient law – man you must die.

Soprano solo: Yes, yes, come Lord Jesus.

Alto solo: Into thy hands I commend my spirit.

Bass solo: Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.

Chorale hymn: With joy and peace I now depart according to God’s will.

I entrust my heart and soul calmly and quietly as God has called me.

Death will become as my sleep.

Chorus: Glory, praise, honor, and majesty be with thee, God, Father and Son,

and to the name of the Holy Spirit. Divine power makes us victorious through Jesus Christ.


Each of the texts is presented directly, succinctly. Humility is pervasive. There’s minimal repetition except in two portions: (1) the reminder of the “ancient law” (man, you must perish), and (2) the final section – a glorious fugue celebrating victory over death through Jesus Christ.


A surprisingly intimate moment occurs at the end of the soprano solo. Threaded among the reminders of the ancient law, the soprano solo represents the believer yearning for Christ’s comfort as death approaches. We hear the vocal and instrumental lines reduced until only the bass line pulses faintly (like a fading heartbeat) under the soprano’s final pleas to Jesus for relief. In Bach’s manuscript, he confirms the soul’s passing by writing a full measure’s rest with a fermata above. The silence is palpable.


As mentioned above, the cantata concludes by celebrating Christ’s victory over death. Just before the end, Bach does the equivalent of putting the message in bright lights -- when for the final statement of the fugue subject, the sopranos stretch the melody in augmentation – it’s suddenly twice as slow as before. What a joyful moment! It feels like we’re celebrating Easter!

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