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Sacred Music in the Holiest of Weeks

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” - Bach

Most of my blog posts have centered around classical music, and how classical music makes students better musicians, and overall, better people in the long run.

However, I haven't spoken much about the role of sacred music, especially as we are encountering the holiest of weeks for the Christian church: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and then blessed Easter Sunday.

When I think about sacred music, I instantly turn my mind over to Johann Sebastian Bach, not only the writer of brilliant secular preludes and fugues, but also author to much sacred writings. As a church musician, Bach would compose one new Biblical cantata per week.

In those cantatas, he would find ways to reveal the Trinity not only through Scripture singing, but also through the music. For example, he would write some music in the key signature of E-Flat Major, which contains three flats for the duration of the piece. Bach attributed the three flats to the three roles of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other works, he would write organ music that would have the organist move their feet in such a way as to make the sign of the cross, as one would over their heart with their hand. Bach's focus was to ensure that Christ was found in every note, word, and direction.

Over this past weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending the performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, one of his most intensive and laborious works. Our friends both coordinated and conducted this three hour work (in comparison to the three hours Christ was on the cross) just in time for Holy Week.

This piece was meant to be performed on Good Friday, but last Saturday was also perfect timing. After a crazy few weeks in my life, this was the soul-redeeming work I needed to ground myself and prepare myself for Holy Week. At the end of the work, we were left with Christ buried in the grave. So now we wait for His hopeful resurrection in just three short days.

I believe the point that I would like to make in this particular blog post is that all music, sacred and secular (classical) has a good and perfect place in our daily lives. For Bach, the combination of both sacred and classical music can work together for the beauty in such a work as the St. Matthew Passion, and I believe that we as musicians and composers in today's modern world can do the very same.

May you all have a blessed Easter!

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