Our music

On Good Friday we sang at the annual German-language service at St Paul's United Church of Christ. We sang three motets in the service.

GREGOR AICHINGER

Adoramus te, Christe

Poor Gregor! No pictures survive of him — yet he was one of the most admired musicians of his generation. Born around 1565, he served as organist to the wealthiest family in Germany, the Fuggers of Augsburg (whose church, St. Anna, is pictured above). At 21, he traveled to Venice to witness the dawn of the Baroque era in music. He brought this taste for splendor back to Augsburg. His motet "Adoramus te, Christe," features simple yet gorgeous counterpoint.

Here is a translation of the text:

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, who by Thy Holy Cross hast redeemed the world. Thou, who hast suffered death for us, O Lord O Lord, have mercy on us.

JOSEPH HAYDN

Mein Gott, Mein Gott! Warum hast du mich verlassen?

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At the age of 53, Joseph Haydn composed an unusual work for string quartet: seven reflections on the last words of Christ on the cross. He deeply loved this work and decided to rewrite it for chorus and orchestra. In each movement we hear a sentence from the Bible account, followed by personal commentary. The fourth movement, My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? is the centerpiece of the work and profound in its beauty and devotion.

Here is a translation of the text:

Why have you forsaken me? Where is now the hand of God? Who can fathom this mystery? O God of power and might, O God of might and strength, we are the work of your hands, and your love, O Lord, has redeemed us. O Lord, we thank you from the heart. For our sake you suffered pain, contempt, abandonment, fear, and torture. Lord, who would not love you? Who would sadden you with sins? Who can mistake your kindness? No, nothing shall separate us from you here on earth nor in eternity.

WOLFGANG MOZART

Ave, verum corpus

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Six months before he died, Mozart was visiting his wife, who was recovering from the effects of childbirth at the spa town of Baden, Germany. Mozart was in the midst of writing Die Zauberflöte, his most hilarious opera, in addition to developing themes for his Requiem. In the town of Baden lived a friend who was a musician at the local church. For him, Mozart composed this gem. It's only 46 measures long, yet it conveys the intimate power of communion.

Here is a translation of the text:

Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary, having truly suffered, sacrificed on the cross for mankind, from whose pierced side water and blood flowed: Be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet] in the trial of death!