A Church, An Oratorio And An Enduring Tradition | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Church, An Oratorio And An Enduring Tradition

Play associated audio

Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio was first performed in Leipzig on Christmas Day in 1734. In Germany, no matter what the economic and political times, it's the Christmas work. In the oldest functioning church in Berlin, the 13th-century Saint Mary's, performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a fixed tradition.

St. Marienkirche, built around 1290, suffered damage — like most everything in this city — from allied air raids during WWII. But it survived. Today, the gothic church sits in stately, if jarring, contrast next to the giant, kitschy TV tower built by the East German regime on the concrete expanse of Alexanderplatz.

This time of year, to get into the church you have to push your way through the packed Christmas market just outside, with its Ferris wheel, mulled wine, holiday sweets and lively crowds. But when you step inside the church for the annual performance of J.S. Bach's Weihnachstoratorium, you quickly forget about the bustle outside. A Berliner and longtime member of St. Mary's church choir on J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Christian Beier attempts to explain the mystique and tradition behind this piece of music.

"It was the first CD my father bought when in the '80s we bought a CD player," Beier says. "So this piece of music was the first CD we had in the family. Even if you play it every year, it is always an emotional moment staying up there singing Jauchzet, frohlocket. That is just more or less like doing the service itself; it is a service, basically.

"It makes Christmas Christmas," he adds with a chuckle.

But as gorgeous as the music is for Beier, the core of this yearly event is something deeper.

"It is getting into some dialogue with God. It is being moved by whatever is around us," he says. "That's the point, and it's about making music together. And I don't know many pieces of music that bring that out like this. Being part of it and enjoying the music and doing it with the others together, and just let the music flow through you and be a part of it and sing."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Halt And Catch Fire' Explores What It Was Like For Women In '80s Tech

Mackenzie Davis, lead actress in the AMC show, says she's more interested in the story of an underdog woman than of a "damaged, white, middle-class male figuring out his dreams."
WAMU 88.5

To Help Fight World Hunger, You Can Overeat At José Andrés' 'Dine-N-Dash'

On June 9, 17 restaurants in Penn Quarter will take part in the Dine-N-Dash, an event to help José Andrés' non-profit World Central Kitchen fight hunger across the globe.
NPR

Texas Loses Billions To Treat The Poor By Not Expanding Medicaid, Advocates Say

When the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not compel states to expand Medicaid programs, many Southern and Midwestern states opted out. One quarter of the uninsured live in Texas.
NPR

'Halt And Catch Fire' Explores What It Was Like For Women In '80s Tech

Mackenzie Davis, lead actress in the AMC show, says she's more interested in the story of an underdog woman than of a "damaged, white, middle-class male figuring out his dreams."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.