I know, I know, we had Bach just a few days ago, but this week’s schedule of Advent music is full of dreamy 19th and 20th century music, and I thought a bit of up-beat Baroque was just what we needed for contrast.
Besides, this is a seriously cool piece of music, and this choir and orchestra perform it just impeccably (and I love the way the violinists are, without exception bobbing on the first beat of each bar. It’s like a little minuet for violinists!). Also, hearken to the alto joy at 4:01! We sang this maybe seven years ago in choir, and I can still do that bit from memory – it’s the only way one can possibly get one’s voice around the notes, because nobody can sight read that fast.
What to else say about this? Well, it’s one of the classic Advent texts – I’m pretty sure I heard it at the service last Sunday, though it must be confessed that all my Advent services are beginning to blur together. I’ve certainly sung the hymnified version in the last week, and also heard the organ solo version. After a while, one starts suspecting that Bach spent a large portion of his career writing variations on Wachet Auf, actually. But I digress.
The text is generally translated ‘Zion hears the watchmen’s voices’, but it’s closer to ‘Wake up, the voices call us – it is the watchmen on the roofs’, and it is all about the Bridegroom coming (with digressions about Wise Virgins, who presumably have lamps, but Bach figured we knew all about that, and left the lamps out). It tends to be played a lot especially in early Advent, because it is all about preparing for the arrival of Christ. Though I think the implication is more Second Coming than mangers and oxen and Bethlehem.
I do love this rendition of it – it’s lively and strongly sung and definitely wakes one up of a morning.