It is easily forgotten, but the ‘gospel’ – say: the gift of faith to a Christian – means JOY or GOOD tidings. It is the news bulletin of every moment that tells us that everything and everyone, deep down, is loved and carried.
‘By his step one recognizes the believer’, you could therefore say. Bad news notwithstanding, I may and can, on the basis of that good news, light-footed, cheerful, full of life. Because in the ground I don’t have to carry it myself, that life of mine. I can participate in it to my heart’s content, yes also: experiment with it, but the main contractor does the actual work, bears ultimate responsibility.
Just sayin. How much peace does that give?!
Francis of Assisi is said to have said about the proclamation of that glad tidings: proclaim it ( ) with words if necessary’. Bach chooses notes. And almost always, above all, the majesty of the Gospel resounds in it.
The unsurpassed ‘All of Bach’ series offers a fascinating exception to that rule. We hear not so much the harmony of The Good News itself, but what it means not to grasp this, or not at all. Because it quickly becomes apparent that Bach’s normally superior notes are worrying. toil. Not getting it done. Organist Jacobs tells how Bach notes a cannon that is structurally incorrect and, in order to round it up, has to smuggle it: a note here, a half note off there. And so a coral is created that twists. It just doesn’t sound good.
I hear a confession. Selfknowledge. Which is also certain: proclamation, call it ‘good advice’.
The title of the work: Hilf Gott das mir’s gelinge. Bach seems to say: if you emphasize the prayer that you must succeed, things go wrong. Because once it doesn’t work out, you start compensating and before you know it your faith becomes your effort.
And thus the great master shows us the right way, by bringing error to our ears. The essence of the good news: that you dare to shift the emphasis. From belief in the meaning of one’s own effort to confidence in God’s help.
Listen for yourself here . And don’t forget to listen to the interview with Bart Jacobs.