Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Mystery 2014

                                                                First Sunday of Advent, 2014

On Christmas Eve 2013 I received a box whose contents I very quickly decided should form the basis of this year's Christmas Mystery.  The box contained a complete set of live recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas, performed during the 1999 - 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, under the direction of musician and farmer Sir John Eliot Gardiner. 

For nearly a year these recordings have been background music while driving around Evansville, or working at home, and have accompanied me on numerous trips across Indiana, as well as travels back and forth to St. Louis, from one end of southern California to the other, and even while touring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  I now understand why Bach is considered the greatest composer who ever lived. 

The cantata was the "musical sermon before the sermon," in the German Lutheran church service of Bach's day, three hundred years ago.  Bach would find words consistent with the Bible readings for the given Sunday or Feast Day, then compose music for a choir, accompanied by a modest ensemble of instruments.

The Christmas Mystery 2014 DVD uses a movement, sung in German, from one of Bach's 200 church cantatas.  A series of photographs, all of which were taken in Indiana, accompany the music.  The answer to this year's Christmas Mystery is a Bible verse capturing the meaning of Christmas.  The photographs on the DVD contain an abundance of clues pointing to the featured cantata and chosen Bible verse. The correct answer is simply "Book of the Bible, chapter number: verse number." Only two guesses allowed.  

The first person to submit the correct answer to gkissel@msn.com by Christmas Eve will receive a CD with the recording of the complete cantata whose first movement was used in the DVD, and a mid-century modern bent glass dish featuring three reindeer.  The solution and explanation of all the clues will be posted at www.christmas-mystery.blogspot.com on Christmas Eve.

Bach signed his church cantatas with the letters SDG , standing for Soli Deo gloria, "To God alone the Glory." It is in that spirit that I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Acknowledgements:   The use of the music on the enclosed DVD was made possible by kind permission of Soli Deo Gloria, Monteverdi Productions, Ltd., London, England. 

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