Asteroids have been named after J.S. Bach. Beethoven called him “the father of harmony”. Without this hard-working, coffee-loving genius, the music of our planet would be very different.
Harmonies, or chords, are the tools that allow composers to express an infinite range of moods and emotions. Bach found ways to master the art of harmony which have fascinated musicians ever since, from Mozart to Radiohead. In short, we are all #bachinspired.
Our signature work, with a new twist
One of Bach’s greatest works, the St Matthew Passion, tells the story of Jesus in vivid and beautiful music. It’s a universal drama of life and death told through singing. At the heart of it lie ‘chorales’ -simple melodies that were already hundreds of years old when Bach recycled them. He gave them new, moving harmonies, allowing the chorales to offer an emotional commentary on the drama as it progresses.
Click here to listen to The Bach Choir sing a chorale:
The Bach Choir usually performs the St Matthew Passion to sold-out audiences at Easter every year. It’s a very important moment for us.
Unable to perform in 2020 or 2021, we used the music as a catalyst to launch a bold conversation between the past and the future. And to allow us to support composers and singers throughout lockdown.
An exciting project in an extraordinary year
We invited six brilliant, award-winning composers to compose new works in answer to chorales from the St Matthew Passion. They had complete freedom to choose their text, and we invited them to challenge, explore and take risks. We are now beginning to explore their compositions in rehearsals with musical director David Hill.
Later this year these new #bachinspired works will be recorded alongside the chorales which prompted them. It will be an exciting moment when we can finally share them with the world!
The project aims to promote dialogue with the past while contributing to the music of the future. And creates a legacy from this extraordinary year when singing live has not been possible.
Join us on the journey
Join us for an uplifting journey as we rehearse and record this music. We’ll be curating interesting information about the composers, the texts and their authors and a bit about Bach and The Bach Choir too.
Introducing the #bachinspired composers
#bachinspired COMPOSER Q&A: CHARLOTTE HARDING
What did St Matthew Passion mean to you prior to this project?
I think responding to a work like St Matthew Passion is exciting and
intimidating in equal measure! It’s one of those pieces that so many have a
deep connection to. For me, it’s a masterpiece of compositional craft, yet
simultaneously so human.
Why were you drawn to your particular chorale?
I was immediately drawn to the line of text ‘the glow of life’ in ‘O Haupt voll Blut
und Wunden’ – I felt it painted such a beautifully simplistic image of something
so profound. I also love the chorale’s pure harmonic contours and voicings; I
think it offers a security that acts as a much-needed counterpoint to this
challenging part of the story.
Why did you choose your response text, and how did it shape the music
I have always been drawn to the works of Hildegard of Bingen, and in
particular how her writings often explore the natural world through a prism of
divinity and enlightenment. I came across Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s
translations of Hildegard’s writings online and was immediately taken with the
vibrancy and visuality of her language. The ethereal nature of the selected text
then very much inspired the sound world of the piece.
What moods might a listener find reflected in your composition?
I hope the piece has a sense of luminosity and calm, almost like a lullaby; yet
from within that, an air of newness and possibility evolves.
Is your piece dedicated to anyone? If you’re willing, can you tell us about
Around the same time that I was invited to write this piece I received the
wonderful news that my sister was expecting a baby! It seemed very fitting to
respond to the St Matthew Passion with a celebration of a new life. It will be a
very special moment when my new niece or nephew hears the piece for the
Who inspires you? Musicians, public figures, past and present, anyone
Some current inspirations include Samantha Power (I’ve just finished her
incredible book ‘The Education of an Idealist’), Brett Anderson (I recently
collaborated with him as an arranger of his songs and was blown away by the
craft of his writing) and my two sisters; one who volunteered to be a Covid
vaccinator and the other who I just know is going to be an amazing Mum!
What was your first musical experience as a child?
Playing along to my Dad’s Buddy Holly records by playing one note (marked
with coloured stickers!) on my tiny keyboard.
Why did you become a composer? How did you cope in lockdown?
I started by writing pop songs and pieces I could play on my saxophone, but
quickly realised the exciting possibilities that came with writing for different
instruments, musicians and concepts. I feel very lucky to have been able to
continue to work with musicians and ensembles from so many diverse musical
backgrounds and love the challenge each new commission or project brings.
For me, composing often feels like a riddle you’ll never quite solve, but it’s a
lot of fun along the way!
Personally, I was grateful for the time and space lockdown afforded, but I
remain in complete awe of our key workers. I’m hopeful that music can be a
powerful balm and source of joy for everyone as we re-emerge into this new
world in the coming months.
How do you work? How do you go about starting a new composition?
I tend to think very visually, so often have an image or a concept in mind. With
‘Glow’ I immediately pictured a stream of fresh white light, and so emulated
that image with a held harmonic in the cello. I then explored ways of making
the pedal note ‘glow’ with the vocal melodic lines radiating outwards.
What would be your Desert Island Disc?
‘Some Strange Country’ by Crooked Stills. I was brought up listening to
Country/Americana/Bluegrass – it sounds like home to me.
If you had a dinner party which 3 musicians would you invite and why?
Igor Stravinsky, Pauline Oliveros and Dolly Parton. Can you imagine the
Want more inspiration?
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