Today the sod came up and the stakes went down. The cement will be poured by the end of the week. The new platform for the Washington Music Festival is beginning to take shape and will provide a great venue for the players at the inaugural event this summer. Plans are well under way to provide a great line up of musicians and actors for the festival which will be held on the Washington Lavender Farm during the Sequim Lavender Weekend.
Enjoy this excellent documentary on the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. Explore the legacy of a faithful Christian servant who used his talents passionately with this compelling focus and stated purpose: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.”
This award winning introduction to the great composer features scenes from Eisenach, Ohrdruf, Weimar, Kothen, Muhlhausen and of course, Leipzig and showcases insights from noted J. S. Bach scholars Christoph Wolff, Robin Leaver and guitar virtuoso Christopher Parkening. Narrated by Carl Grapentine.
Did you know that music was important at Mount Vernon?
Although he may not have been musically-inclined himself, George Washington was the head of a household where his wife, Martha–whom he had married as a widow with two children, and later her four grandchildren (two of whom were raised by the Washingtons) all studied music. An intimate friend of Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, Alexander Reinagle, was engaged as the music teacher of George Washington’s step-granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis (known as Nelly), whom Washington adopted legally when her father died.
The President bought her a harpsichord and had it imported from Europe. Martha made her granddaughter, Nelly, practice on it 4 or 5 hours a day. As an adult, Martha Washington’s grandson George Washington Parke Custis (known as “Washy”) recalled that his sister, Nelly, had to practice “very long and very unwillingly at the harpsichord…the poor girl would play and cry, and cry and play, for long hours, under the immediate eye of her grandmother, a rigid disciplinarian in all things.”
The purchase of the harpsichord and long hours of practice seems to have accomplished their intended purpose. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a Polish nobleman who stayed at Mount Vernon in June 1798, wrote of Nelly that, “Her sweetness is equal to her beauty, and this being, so perfect of form, possesses all the talents: she plays the harpsichord, sings, draws better than any woman in America or even in Europe.” On the eve of his visit, he lamented and wrote, “In the evening, for the last time, pretty Miss Custis sang and played on the harpsichord.”
Among the surviving musical scores owned by Nelly Custis were the following: several adapted by her music teacher Alexander Reinagle for the piano from the operas Rosina and The Poor Soldier, a version of a Haydn symphony called Le Reine de France arranged for harpsichord or pianoforte, a keyboard arrangement of Gluck’s overture to the opera Iphigenia at Aulis, several sonatas by J. C. Bach, as well as an excerpt from Handel’s Water Music, and Haydn’s Mermaids Song.
Our best wishes to Sir John Eliot Gardiner who celebrates his 70th birthday today!
In honor of his efforts to highlight J. S. Bach’s contribution to music, we will post six video clips that highlight Gardiner’s Bach pilgrimage. This effort discovered places of worship and spiritual significance that encompassed where Bach lived and worked. From these towns his incredible music spread around the globe, and we can still enjoy it today more than ever. Thank you Sir John Eliot Gardiner for your effort!
Did you know that you can see this summer’s music venue via webcam? Imagine the lawn filled with people on blankets and lawn chairs, listening to some incredible music ensembles performing on the portico. A 14 foot extension will be added to the front of the portico as the main platform for the musicians. Construction on it will begin shortly. Hope to see you here on July 20th when our lavender field is in bloom! In the meanwhile, watch us get ready for your arrival.
Johann Sebastian Bach has been called the “Fifth Evangelist”, ranking with the apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, because his music touches the soul in a way that the spoken word cannot. He took Martin Luther’s promotion of congregational singing and the chorale to a higher level. For Bach, music had one purpose: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” His vast number of church cantatas speak to the struggle of the Christian life and the hope of eternal life and bliss with the loving Shepherd.
Bach had a voracious appetite for studying music in his youth. He was able to master the harpsichord, organ and violin and learned how to compose music at an early age. Imagine a young man walking 250 miles to hear an organ concert in a church where the esteemed organist, Dietrich Buxtehude, is so impressed that he offers his daughter in marriage and his own job. His lifelong musical journey took him from Eisenach to Leipzig where he was employed as the music director for four churches.
The BBC has produced an excellent documentary film on the history of Bach and his music. Here are six video clips, which cover the most significant impact on sacred music by the world’s greatest composer. Your understanding of Bach will never be the same after you watch these clips.
Can you believe Johann Sebastian Bach was buried in an unmarked grave and wasn’t even considered important enough in his day to have a headstone?
Near the end of Bach’s life, his eyesight started to fail and he became increasingly blind. The noted British eye surgeon, John Taylor, visited Leipzig in the spring of 1750 and operated on Bach’s eyes. A newspaper reported “the unhappy consequences of the very unsuccessful eye operation” as the cause of his death just a few months later. Modern historians speculate that the cause of death was a stroke complicated by pneumonia. On the early morning of July 31, 1750, Bach was buried in St John’s Cemetery which stood one block outside the town’s Grimma Gate. His grave-site was left unmarked, and in the absence of any tombstone his grave was soon forgotten.
When St. John’s Church was rebuilt in 1894, a few Leipzig scholars and Bach admirers succeeded in having what were believed to be the composer’s bones exhumed. In the process of trying to find his bones, 47 graves were dug up. Partial identification was established by a series of anatomical measurements and other tests. The bones were then laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus next to the poet Gellert in the vaults of the Johanniskirche (St. John’s Church). Many people went to pay homage to his tomb until the church was bombed in WWII. Once more his remains were rescued and in 1949 he was buried again in Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church) where they remain to this day.
The rich musical legacy that Johann Sebastian Bach left behind is being rediscovered all over again today. When you hear Bach’s profoundly spiritual music sung by singers who feel that same personal conviction in their hearts, there is also an understanding that Someone else is listening to their worship too.
It’s an incredible story! Hear about the discovery of Bach’s own Bible in a Michigan farm house and how it was protected from Hitler and the Nazis. What did Johann Sebastian Bach write in his own Bible? Discover more of his personal faith that is expressed over and over in his music. Take a few minutes and listen to Dr. Thomas Rossin as he tells the story.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bible was a “Calov Bible”, which is a three-volume 17th-century Bible that contains German translations and commentary by Martin Luther and additional commentary by Wittenberg theology professor Abraham Calovius. 
The three-volume “Calov Bible commentary is a vital source for understanding Bach’s approach to Scripture. Each volume contains Bach’s handwritten monogram. Bach underlined many passages, in both red and black ink and, most importantly, wrote his own comments in the margins. These markings give us a glimpse into Bach’s personal beliefs and how he understood his vocation.” 
Thomas Rossin, a Minnesota conductor who did his dissertation on the volumes that feature Bach’s signature and the date 1733–which could be the year the musician acquired the Bible commentary–said they verify that Bach’s interest in church music was more than just a function of his job as an organist and choir director in Germany. “Finally we have proof in his own hand, not meant for anyone else to see, saying things like, ‘This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music,'” Rossin said. 
The Bible is now residing, permanently, at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis MO. It is possible to make an appointment to see a portion of it, pending on the availability of the librarian.
Gottes wort bleibt in Ewigkeit: “God’s Word stands Forever!”
Imagine a carriage riding up to the inn’s portico with a singer dismounting and stepping on stage to sing before an eager audience assembled on the lawn! Nothing on the scale of Andre Rieu’s “World Stadium Tour” in Toronto, with a full-size reproduction of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, but perhaps you get the picture…