Notes from Bach Cantata Choir

Ralph Nelson, Artistic Director

March 2024 Vol. 17 No. 6

2023-24 Season: A Year of Discovery

Palm Sunday Concert

Sunday, March 24, 2024

2:00 pm Pre-Concert Lecture

3:00 pm Concert

~ Free Admission ~

Donations Welcome

Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de St-Georges): Symphony No. 1

Choral Music for Holy Week

Johann Sebastian Bach: "O  Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"

Johann Ernst Bach: "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn"

Johann Sebastian Bach: "Christus, der uns selig macht"

Heinrich Schütz: “Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz”

Johann Pachelbel: "Christ lag in Todesbanden" 

Rose City Park Presbyterian Church 

(NE 44th and Sandy Blvd)

1907 NE 45th Ave Portland OR 97213 (office)

Please note that this concert begins at 3:00pm. This later start time will be helpful to our many church musicians, for whom Palm Sunday is a busy day.

You are invited to join us at 2:00pm for a pre-concert lecture. There will be a break between the lecture and the concert.

Pre-Concert Lecture

Dr. William B. Fischer

Professor of German, emeritus

Portland State University

"All the Music that's fit to Print"

Dr. Fischer, who has personal experience with printing presses and elephants, will speak on the printing of music in Bach's time and beyond. Click here to read more about the lecture.

Joseph Bologne

(Chevalier de St-Georges)


Our Discovery composer for this concert was born on Christmas Day 1745 on the West Indies island of Guadeloupe. His mother was an enslaved woman from Senegal and his father the French plantation owner. The mixed-race boy was taken to France, along with his mother, when he was eight years old, already showing a gift for music, and would spend the rest of his life there.

Because of his father's connection to King Louis XVI, the boy would become known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

The concert will open with his Symphony No. 1 in G Major.

He excelled in fencing, athletics, horsemanship, dancing, and mathematics as well as music, having played the violin from childhood. He composed and conducted orchestral music comparable to that of Mozart, and became a favorite of Marie Antoinette, a mixed blessing in his case. He later led a cavalry unit of black volunteers in support of the French Revolution.

A 2023 movie "Chevalier" imagines his life in the aristocratic circles of Paris and notes the social limitations he faced because of his race. Numerous clips of the movie can be found on YouTube.

The BBC has created this brief animated sketch of his life.

Mather Brown's portrait of Joseph Bologne, dated April 4, 1788  This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

Johann Ernst Bach (1722-1777)

Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn (Do not punish me in your anger)

In the Bach family, most of the males were named Johann so we need to look further to identify them. Johann Ernst Bach was the son of Johann Bernhardt Bach who was a cousin to Johann Sebastian (JS) Bach, making Johann Ernst a cousin once removed. (Because of an earlier family member, he is sometimes called Johann Ernst Bach II.) As well as studying law at the University of Leipzig, the young JEB studied music under his famous relative in Leipzig, boarded with the Bachs and certainly joined the rest of the family in hand-copying music. But he spent much of his life in Eisenach, succeeding his father as organist. In later years he also served in Weimar.

His cantata Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn (Punish me not in your anger), composed in 1771, sets the mood for our Lenten concert. The text, from Psalm 6:1, had earlier been set as a hymn around the year 1700. The cantata begins with this chorale melody, followed by soloists on verses 2-6, double choir on verse 6, concluding with the chorus on verse 7 in which the basses have the melody.

Soloists are Sheryl Wood, soprano; Brandon Michael, tenor; Zachary Lenox, bass.

Because this work has only recently been available in print (2023), it is possible that this performance may be its American premiere.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

"O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"

"Christus, der uns selig macht"

Although JS Bach may have written others, only two of his passions have survived. Borrowing a chorale from each of them, we will sing "Christus, der uns selig macht" (Christ who makes us Blessed) from the St. John Passion, and also "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" (O Sacred Head now Wounded) from the St. Matthew Passion.

2024 is the 300th anniversary of Bach's St. John Passion, which the Bach Cantata Choir performed last year.

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz

(Seven Last Words from the Cross)

As a young man, Schütz studied with Gabrieli in Venice. At age 30 he took the position of organist in Catholic Dresden where he stayed for most of his life, although he spent several years (1633-1641) in Copenhagen while displaced during the Thirty Years War.

Schütz composed Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz around 1645, with revisions a decade later. The Venetian influence can be heard in the Introitus sung by the chorus.

One of the interesting things about this work is that Schütz always accompanies the words spoken by Jesus with a small string section. This technique is literally putting a musical "halo" over Christ indicating he is divine. Bach, in his St. Matthew Passion uses the same technique. Schütz was a master at setting text to music, and his works and techniques were studied by countless Baroque composers, certainly including JS Bach.  

The seven last words of Christ as sung by the soloists:

1st Word: Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they do!

2nd Word: Woman, behold your son! John, behold your mother!

3rd Word: In truth, I tell you: today you'll be in Heaven with me.

4th Word: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

5th Word: I am thirsty!

6th Word: All is finished.

7th Word: Father, I commend my spirit into your hands!

The chorus returns for the Conclusio.

Soloists: Nan Haemer, soprano; Sheryl Wood, alto; Jesse Preis, tenor; Paul Butler, bass. Playing the role of Jesus: Kyle-Ross Hall, baritone.  

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in the bonds of death)

Pachelbel encountered the Bach family while he was organist at Eisenach. There he was a colleague of JS Bach's father and became godfather to an older sister of JS Bach. Moving on to the Predigerkirche (Preacher’s Church) in Erfurt where he succeeded yet another Johann Bach as organist, he met more members of the family and even played at the wedding of his student Johann Christoff Bach in 1694. (JS Bach would have been a child of 9 at that time. When both his parents died within the next year, JS Bach went to live with Johann Christoff, his eldest brother. It seems likely that the young Bach absorbed some of Pachelbel's influence by proximity.)

Martin Luther's great Easter hymn Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ Lay in Death's Strong Bondage) was published in 1524 and was used by many German composers to create anthems and cantatas based on the text and melody. JS Bach certainly did this with his Cantata #4, written in 1707 when Bach was a young organist at Mühlhausen. Johann Pachelbel wrote a significantly shorter version, and we can speculate that JS Bach may have known Pachelbel's version since we know that Bach was quite familiar with Pachelbel's music. The tune itself is based on an Easter chant dating from the 11th century, which Luther (with the help of Johann Walter) reworked into his hymn. Each verse ends with "Hallelujah."

Pachelbel's Christ lag in Todesbanden was composed for Easter using a chorus and three soloists.

Soloists: Taylor Hulett, soprano, Brandon Michael, tenor; Zachary Lenox, bass


The church's parking lot is very small and fills up quickly. Please allow time to find on-street parking. Do not park at Grocery Outlet! Sunday is their busiest shopping day.

The church has an elevator accessible from its parking lot, facing Sandy Blvd. 

Masking is optional for audience and singers.


Save the Dates

  • Thursday, March 21 — all day. JS Bach's 339th birthday

  • Sunday, March 24 at 3pm  — Lenten Concert (Palm Sunday); a 2pm lecture precedes the concert.

  • Sunday, May 19 at 2pm — Send-off for Leipzig

The Bach Cantata Choir's mission is to sing the entire set of cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach over a period of 30 years. The Bach Cantata Choir is a legally organized non-profit corporation under Oregon law, and is a registered 501(c)(3) corporation with the IRS. Donations to the choir are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law and regulation.

The BachBeat newsletter is published cyclically by the Bach Cantata Choir. 

Emily Rampton, Writer and Editor

3570 NE Mathison Pl.
Portland, OR 97212
Phone: (503) 702-1973
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