BACH’S Christmas Oratorio was first performed in 1734 in the St Nicholas Church in Leipzig, where Bach was musical director, jointly with the Thomaskirche. This performance is sung by the Thomaner Choir, and accompanied by members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
The Oratorio is performed every Christmas in Leipzig, and you have to queue very early to be assured of a seat, because there is no booking ahead, and all of Leipzig turns out for the event. We go there every year, especially to hear it, and be uplifted by its joyful message.
‘Rejoice and be glad, all hail to the Day;
Honour all that the Highest has done on this Day.
Begone all fear and banish sorrow.
Sing with joy and exultation.
Glory to the Highest with heavenly choirs,
And honour the name of the Lord.’
Contrary to the subtitle on the film, this recording was actually made in the St Nicholas Church, the largest and most important of Leipzig’s Protestant churches. It dates from 1165. The church rose to national fame in 1989, with the spontaneous Monday Demonstrations, when it became the centre of peaceful revolt against communist rule, and led ultimately to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
What better place to rejoice and be exceeding glad!
This article was first published on December 25, 2018.