This morning we sang our Bach cantata, and it went far less badly than I had expected. We had a couple of violins, a viola, a cello, and an assortment of woodwinds, the soloists were quite good, and the choir didn’t actually give up and quit singing at any point.
If we could start each day with a rousing cantata played with chamber ensemble, we’d all do better at work, I’m sure.
The cantata in question, Bach’s cantata based on “Sleepers, Awake,” has some peculiarities. First, it’s about the five wise virgins and the five foolish ones, though the church staff spoke of “bridesmaids” rather than virgins. This cantata also uses the metaphor of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride, which we don’t do so much nowadays. Thus, the duets consist of a soprano and a bass trilling, “Come quickly!” and “I come! I come quickly!” at one another about 97 times, wrapping things up with a bit of harmonizing on the theme of eternal rapture in flowery fields. A bit different from the usual Christmas lyrics.
It’s also more focused on the second coming of Christ than on the first. Evangelical churches usually get into the second coming a lot more than we mainstream Protestants do, and yet they don’t usually embrace Advent, with its wide range of songs about the return of Christ.
The best plan may be to sing the thing in German. This would also keep us from having to sing “Where? Where? Where?” and “So, So, So” all the time, not to mention the whole “Ye maids beware” thing, which sounds as though they’re in danger, not as though they’re having to run buy more oil because they didn’t check their cupboards when they should have.
I thought, while the scripture was being read, of all the cases in which I’m like the foolish virgins, who run out of oil through poor preparation, rather than the wise virgins, who brought flasks of oil with them. I don’t ever mean to be that way, yet still it happens.
I came home and put a nice pan of Ham and Potatoes Gratinee into the over, did an hour or two of work, and then settled back down to knit presents. You can see the beginnings of a hat at left and a couple pairs of legwarmers in a welter of stuff at right.
I watched “The Nutcracker” while knitting, and then #1 son came in and we discussed Romantic British poetry and plans for Christmas Eve. He proposes a larger meat and cheese tray this year than in the past, and — since Christmas Eve is on a Saturday — opening the traditional new board game early enough that we can play it all day. Usually we have to wait for people to get home from work, but we are all free on that day, so we figure we can celebrate all day long.
For today’s song. I offer you “Love Came Down at Christmas.” I love this song, and I rather think that it is as close to a Bach cantata as most of us are likely to get while hanging around the fire at home, knitting. I like the rendition by Jars of Clay , but you need to sing it in a round if you’re going for echoes of Bach at all.
To me, this is a very pretty song,and very sweet. It is by Christina Rossetti, who may not be among the official British Romantic Poets like Coleridge and Shelley, but she was certainly romantic, and even Romantic in the sense of being a mystical nature and emotions kind of poet rather than a logical one.
We decided that #1 son is a Platonist. You don’t run into many of those these days.