(Originally posted May 5 2007 as a part of my Top 10 Musical influncers series of blogs)
“Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe.”
– Douglas Adams
Let me introduce you to my piano teachers:
I think back to my piano lesson days – the first real memorable composition I learnt to play at around 7 years of age was the Minuet in G, by Johann Sebastian Bach. My teacher at the time, Mrs Baker – a Christian lady, always told me that Johann Sebastian Bach was a great man of God, and spoke more about his Christian servanthood within the churches than about his actual musicianship.
My second piano teacher, Mrs Madden, was quite a strict teacher, expecting quite a lot from her students. I remember it clearly – we had been given assignements from her. All her students. I was only 10, and had to come up with a complete biography and analysis of his musical compositions. I remember it because in 1985 (yes that’s how old I was…) we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth year of Bach, George Fredrich Handel, and Dominic Scarlatti – 3 of the greatest composers of the Baroque period of music. I looked at Scarlatti, saw I was not familiar with any of his pieces, unfortunately – hey, I was 10.
I was into Run DMC at that time! I looked at Bach, and saw that this man had composed so much music, any musician would be proud to have his great discography, and read about his great influence on music of the day. Since my dad was in the Auckland Choral Society and sang Handel all the time, especially Handel’s Messiah – and his list of compositions was a little less than Bach, i took the easy route. I chose Handel.
My third piano teacher in my teens was Mrs Laird. It was here I became a lot more appreciative of the intricacies of Bach’s work. Polyphonic textures, which were usual in the music of Bach’s day, but taken to totally grand heights by Bach. I loved and appreciated his music from there on, and although after I left Mrs Laird because I wanted to learn more by ear, and became undisciplined in my pursuit of musical excellence, in the folly of my ways, I left music in the pursuit of being popular in high school… What a silly boy I was…
Bach to today
A few years later… OK… quite a few years later… I am here listing a man who lived 300 years before me, as a musical influence?
First of all J S Bach came from humble beginnings… I like that… he studied in the same school as Martin Luther the great reformer. His mom and dad died when he was 9, and from there his eldest brother raised him and was the local church organist, and so he helped teach his siblings, including J Sebastian the keys.
JS Bach could sing… I like that too… It was his soprano voice that got him recognition too, in the wealthy Michealis Monastery choir: sounds like God’s gift making room for him, and bringing him before great men.
Bach was excellent at Greek, Latin and of course Theology. I love that… Bach, like Newton in science saw how his artistry was only great, because of the God that gave him the ability and inspiration. He studied about his God, at the Erdourf Gymnasium Grammar School.
Bach like me?
Bach was arguably the greatest composer of his time, period. Excellent at his craft, knew the instrument he played inside out – literally being the top consultant for most keyboard based instruments, giving advice to councils everywhere. He blurred the line of sacred and secular, because here was a God fearing man, dominating the charts without cease. Bach was the music director of his church too – I LOVE THAT…
Bach to where we belong…
I will always appreciate the music of Bach – and though, I didn’t and wouldn’t have married my cousin like he did. It was Bach’s music I grew up playing the most. It was Bach’s music I appreciated the most. It was Bach’s influence that to this day, is a great inspiration to Christian musicians like myself, to take His glory throughout the world. Sacred, secular… how about just all of it – “God’s”…