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    a choir singing the Christmas Oratorio

    A Prayer for the New Year

    Written in 1734, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was intended to be performed in six parts, ending with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.

    By Marianne Wright

    January 6, 2024
    • Sally Gerard

      Marianne, I so enjoy all of your Tweets and insights! Sally Gerard

    The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift the heart to God. It is not a playlist of background music: each installment focuses on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

    It seems appropriate to start the year with a selection from the master of sacred music, Johann Sebastian Bach. The Christmas Oratorio (written in 1734) was intended to be performed in six parts on the major feast days of the Christmas season, ending with Part Six on January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, which celebrates God’s son revealed as a human being: the newly born Jesus.

    Part Six begins with a mighty chorus that triumphantly declares dependence on God’s power. This is Bach at his most splendid: trumpets, drums, and a full-throated choir. The words (attributed to Christian Friedrich Henrici) are a fitting prayer for the new year; schnauben in the first line literally means “snort,” suggesting warhorses.

    Lord, when our haughty foes assail us
    O, may it for our peace avail us
    To rest upon thy mighty power.
    Our only trust, do thou defend us
    All needful help and succor send us
    To keep us safe in danger’s hour.

    Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben,
    So gib, dass wir im festen Glauben
    Nach deiner Macht und Hülfe sehn!
    Wir wollen dir allein vertrauen,
    So können wir den scharfen Klauen
    Des Feindes unversehrt entgehn.

    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

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