From quiet joy to drums and drama! And yes, I’m just taking you on a tour of my favourite composers now. But if that isn’t something you like, what on earth are you doing here? This piece is a total contrast to yesterday’s anthem – where Orlando Gibbons has angels praising God and singing, Bach has a company of angels who are very firmly telling you that it is time to rejoice now. Gibbons’ angels may be pastoral, but Bach’s angels sound a bit more like the kind who bring good news in the morning, before heading off to fight Lucifer and his demons in the afternoon.
This is the opening chorus to the first part of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which gets sung sung on Christmas morning and Bach clearly wanted to make sure the congregation was wide awake and paying attention. I love the drama and excitement of the drums at the start (not least because they make me think of small children getting up at 4am to open their presents and then running around the house playing with them. Who gave the small children drums? Probably their bad influence Auntie Catherine…) (I have not given my niece a drum for Christmas. I am the worst Auntie. But probably not the worst sister.), and I just love the way this sounds like such good fun to sing.
(I am still trying to work out when I have sung this, because I know just enough of the alto line to be sure that I have sung this music at some point, but I can’t think when – and it can’t have been for a big concert, because I don’t know the line well enough for that…)
The lyrics in English are:
Shout for joy, exult, rise up, glorify the day, praise what today the highest has done! Abandon hesitation, banish lamentation,
begin to sing with rejoicing and exaltation! Serve the highest with glorious choirs, let us honour the name of our ruler!
So really, the loud excitement is appropriate. And this particular performance is by the choir of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Bach worked for most of his career, and where he is now buried – one would imagine that they know how to sing Bach as he should be sung!
(And if not, they had better beware, because I would think that this performance just about could wake the dead, and he’s *right there*, with fresh flowers still on his grave and everything, so…)