Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for August, 2011

Mindful of the Past

The Church Music Institute of Dallas, Texas sponsored a day-long workshop for musicians and pastors in the Pacific Northwest in mid-August.  CMI, while dedicated to the practice, advancement and stewardship of the best of liturgical and sacred music for worshipping Christian congregations, is also about sharing the joy and power of music.

CMI summarizes their work in three ways.  They encourage church leaders to be mindful of the past, to strengthen a their commitment to the present and to prepare for the future.  It was my privilege to not only serve as the organ clinician but to revel in this day of joyous music making and music sharing.  Organists, choir directors, and pastors began and ended the day in rousing worship and song.  Interspersed throughout the day were those opportunities to not only hear new music but to share ideas and the joy of music with colleagues from around the country.

As the organ clinician, I presented one session on organ repertoire for the church year.  It was not difficult to the follow the CMI guideline to be “mindful of the past” in this workshop.  There is a wealth of wonderful organ repertoire from the past four centuries which can enhance today’s worship.  For example, chorale preludes by Buxtehude, Bach, Telemann, Scheidt, Brahms, and Pepping can be found for any liturgical season and for an organist of any skill level.

Some of the best of liturgical and sacred music for worshipping Christian congregations was composed centuries ago.  Being “mindful of the past” in choosing organ music for worship is a concept that should be eagerly embraced and explored by every church organist.

A Wedding in Dornheim

(The year in Muhlhausen as told by Maria Barbara Bach, JS Bach’s first wife)

Bach Wedding Church in Dornheim

Johann Sebastian Bach and I were married on October 17, 1707.  It was a lovely affair starting in Arnstadt and continuing in Dornheim four miles away.  We had such a grand time walking with all our family and friends to the little village church in Dornheim where a friend of the family married us.

After our celebration, we immediately moved to Muhlhausen where Johann had already begun his work several months earlier.  I will now be with Johann to support him, provide a home for him, and to encourage him in all his musical efforts.

Things are definitely looking up in Muhlhausen.  Students have started coming to Johann Sebastian asking for lessons.  If you are a genius, it is a gift to be taught by Johann Sebastian Bach.  If not…well things can be a little tough.

However, now that we are settled in Muhlhausen, we are finding that the congregation at St. Blaise’s is basically Pietist.   We now know that Pietists believe in extreme simplicity – simplicity in everything including their music.   I am told they are afraid of the excessive use of music and art in worship, with its temptations to worldliness.  Some church people even wanted a complete ban on instrumental music in the service.  This was not good, because what my Johann plays for them is his wonderful but complex contrapuntal music.

I have begun to wonder if St. Blaise’s in Muhlhausen is such a good place for us or not.  What were they thinking when they hired my Johann Sebastian Bach?

(The anecdote above is one of a dozen vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)

JS Bach Leaves Arnstadt for Muhlhausen

(JS Bach’s move to Muhlhausen as recounted by Maria Barbara Bach, JS Bach’s future wife.)

With the many challenges facing Johann Sebastian in Arnstadt, I decided to talk with my relative Johann Bellstedt in Muhlhausen.  I told him Johann was very unhappy and was looking for a new position as a church organist.

Blasiikirche in Muhlhausen

Upon learning this news, Herr Bellstedt, immediately asked Johann to come try out the new organ at St. Blaise’s in Muhlhausen—on Easter Sunday no less!  Well, of course everyone was very impressed with Johann’s virtuosity and the board decided on the spot that my JS was the man for the organist position.

It is so exciting.  Now, with this new position and its great salary of 85 gulden and a promise of 54 bushels of grain, two cords of wood and six bundles of brushwood, my Johann tells me we can get married and that we will immediately move to Muhlhausen to start our new life together.

(The anecdote above is one of a dozen vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by David Jordan, media artist with Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)

Who was that woman singing in the choir loft?

(Barbara Katherina, second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach and elder sister of Maria Barbara, Bach’s future wife tells of her sister’s interest in Johann Sebastian Bach as her future husband.)

Maria Barbara were you in church yesterday?  Did you hear what our JS played?  I think it was an organ piece with our favorite chorale “How Brightly Shines the Morningstar” hidden in all those different sounding sections somewhere.  Our staid old congregation really did not like it did they?  I think our JS learned a lot from Herr Buxtehude and Herr Scheidt while he was in Lubeck don’t you?

Then to make matters worse, did you hear the hymn accompaniment he played on LOBT GOTT, IHR CHRISTEN?   Heavens, it was hard to sing that hymn with that wild accompaniment, if I say so myself.   Why I heard people complaining all around us.  They truly were confused.  Some even said they could not hear the melody.  I imagine all that new-fangled ornamentation, is not going to sit well with all those serious faced men.

Maria Barbara, please tell me you were not the woman someone heard singing to JS’s organ accompaniment in the church choir

The organ and loft of the Bachkirche in Arnstadt, Germany

loft the other day?  If it was you, you are in so much trouble!  First, you—a woman actually in the choir loft and second, horror of horrors, you were even heard singing in the choir loft!  Just think of the mess you have created now for our dear Johann Sebastian, and just when things were starting to settle down a bit.  What were you thinking?

Oh, so you have heard he is looking for another job?  And, why would our Johann need a different job?  So he can finally settle down and what?  Marry you, Maria Barbara?  Is that what you are thinking, my dear little sister?

(The story above is one of a dozen vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)

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