Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation

Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation March 25, 2013

Bach is among the very greatest of Christian artists, and his “St. Matthew Passion” is considered one of his greatest works.  It is an oratorio, something like an opera, that sets to music Matthew’s account of the crucifixion of Christ (Chapters 26-27), with soloists singing the lines of the various characters and magnificent choral music, all punctuated with Bach’s rendition of Lenten hymns (many of which we still sing today) and remarkable verse by Bach himself responding to Christ’s sacrifice.

My colleague Steve McCollum alerted me to an online resource that makes this masterpiece of musical devotion accessible online:  Oregon Bach Festival » Digital Bach Project » St. Matthew Passion.  It gives the English translation, as well as the Biblical sources and the dramatic script, for each line as the oratorio unfolds.  Click the link, then when you see the painting of St. Matthew, hit the play button.  It’s divided into five 30-minute segments, which makes it an excellent Holy Week devotion.  Here is Dr. McCollum’s description:

Dear Friends,

The Oregon Bach Festival is one of the most highly regarded music festivals in the world. Helmut Rilling (artistic director) is a revered Bach scholar and master teacher. In 2002 I was able to participate in the festival as a conducting fellow and the experience changed my life. As such, as we approach Holy Week, I’m very excited to recommend a newly developed web resource featuring Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. This resource makes the entire passion service accessible by providing a thorough devotional and liturgical context along with the entire OBF performance. It is divided into 5 sections (each approx. 30 minutes long) which lead the listener through the passion by providing translations and historical/musical contexts for each movement. The experience is amazing.

Dr. Tim Smith (creative director of the Oregon Bach Festival’s Digital Bach Project) described his intentions for the project this way:
“I want to reintroduce the St. Matthew Passion to people of faith who may not know of it, or have forgotten. And I want to shake up people who know it well by forcing them to see it within the liturgical life that created it.”

I hope that you find this uplifting.

Here is the link:


Steven McCollum, D.M.A.
Director of Music

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