Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden (BWV 6) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
In Bach’s time – and still in the Book of Common Prayer – the prescribed Gospel for Monday in Easter Week was Luke 24:13-35, the one assigned by our Revised Common Lectionary to this Sunday, the Third of Easter. As Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig beginning in 1723, he wrote cantatas for almost all liturgical events of the church year. For this day, he wrote a cantata in six movements, the first movement performed here by the outstanding Belgian group Collegium Vocale Gent. The text, which gives Cantata 6 its title, is from verse 29:
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden
und der Tag hat sich geneiget.
Stay with us, because it is almost evening
and the day is now nearly over.
Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ(BWV 649) – J. S. Bach
Bach, along with his contemporaries, wasn’t above borrowing from his colleagues or recycling his own works for use in other musical configurations. The third movement of Cantata 6 (above), scored for soprano, viola and continuo, reappears as a delightful transcription for the organ in the collection of Bach’s works known as the Schübler Chorales.The chorale tune is played on the middle manual (keyboard) beginning at about 2:16 in this rendition.
At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing – Text: Latin (Ad cenam Agni, 1632); tr. Robert Campbell / Music: Melody Jakob Hintze (1622-1702); harm. J. S. Bach.
In terms of hymnody, Bach’s genius lay not in composing new hymn tunes, but in harmonizing and embellishing the rich body of church song that already existed. Some of his ingenious harmonisations are found in hymnals today, including the tune SALZBURG, the melody of which first appeared in 1678; it is found at 207 in our blue hymn book (Common Praise).
Although our hymnal attaches the year 1632 to the text, this Latin hymn was likely written many centuries earlier. The Latin original is a theological-liturgical masterpiece, linking the cross and the liturgy in a most profound way. Resonances of the Exsultet occur throughout; however, the Exsultet is quite possibly a younger text. Verse 4 is easily recognized as the ancient Communion antiphon for the Easter Vigil and Easter Day.
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from his wounded side;
Praise we him, whose love divine
Gives his sacred blood for wine,
Gives his body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.
Where the Paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, Paschal bread!
With sincerity and love
Eat we manna from above.
Mighty victim from on high,
Hell’s fierce powers beneath thee lie;
Thou hast conquered in the fight,
Thou hast brought us life and light:
Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall;
Thou hast opened Paradise,
And in thee the saints shall rise.
Easter triumph, Easter joy,
This alone can sin destroy;
From sin’s power, do thou set free,
Newborn souls in you to be.
Hymns of glory, songs of praise,
Father, unto thee we raise:
Risen Lord, all praise to thee,
With the Spirit, ever be.