Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


CTK Presents Bach In Lenten Music Meditations

Published March 17, 2011

On Friday evening, April 1, at 8 p.m. the Cathedral Choir of Christ the King, Cathedral organist Timothy Wissler and guest artist, cellist Charae Kreuger, will present a program of music by the Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach. The program will feature Bach’s motet “Jesu meine Freude” (Jesus my Joy), a set of cello pieces from the composer’s “Suite in D minor” and his organ masterwork “Fantasy and Fugue in G minor.”

No reservations are required, and the public is invited to attend. Donations will be accepted at the door (suggested donation $10).

The Cathedral also offers traditional spoken Stations of the Cross at 7 p.m. on Fridays during Lent.

In 1723, Bach took the position of cantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig and began his most fertile years as a composer and musician. At the time Latin motets were required for the beginning of the morning services, but Bach concentrated his compositional energies on vocal concertos (or cantatas) written in German, specifically designed for the proper readings of each Sunday. In addition to this outpouring of music, he also composed “special” music for important occasions outside of the regular liturgies. “Jesu meine Freude” was one of these occasional pieces, composed shortly after his arrival in Leipzig for the funeral of the wife of the Leipzig postmaster. At its core is a popular hymn of the time, which anchors the 11 movements of the work.

The monumental organ work “Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor” probably originated as two independent pieces. The fantasia is an example of the Baroque fantastic style, in which organists were encouraged to improvise as freely and daringly as the imagination—and the rules of harmony and counterpoint—would allow. In the fantasia Bach alternates free sections of recitative-like writing and chromatic chordal progressions with stricter sections of imitative counterpoint. The fugue seems to have been one of Bach’s most popular organ pieces, as it is handed down in numerous manuscript copies. Based on a Dutch folksong “Ick ben gegroet,” it is one of the most virtuosic organ movements Bach wrote.

Kreuger, principal cellist for the Atlanta Opera, describes the music of the D minor suite as “overflowing with emotional richness, with dark brooding undercurrents and, perhaps, a hint of the tragic.” The cello suites, like much of Bach’s music, had been lost in obscurity until the famous Spanish cellist Pablo Casals “rediscovered” them in the 1930s.  It has been said that Casals, a devout Catholic, would set aside time to play this Suite in D minor privately, for himself, as a meditative form of prayer every Good Friday for over 40 years.

This combination of imposing text with masterful music was the primary reason Christ the King started these Lenten Musical Meditations nine years ago.

“The season of Lent, as reflected in the procession of readings and liturgies from Sunday to Sunday and week to week, has such a dramatic movement and pace,” said Kevin Culver, choirmaster at the Cathedral. He added, “And the genius of Bach’s music is that it not only explores text and tone but also invites contemplation and reflection through its very structure. We hope these meditations will enrich the spirits of all those who attend.”

The Cathedral is located at 2699 Peachtree Road, Atlanta.