For as long as I can remember, since I started playing the classical guitar, whenever I’m not feeling well, I pick up my guitar and play Bach.
There was something about his music that always made me feel better.
Many years ago, when I was caring for my Mom as she recovered from surgery, I would practice in the living room while she rested. I was working on a Bach prelude at the time, and every time I started practicing that piece, she would come out of the bedroom and lie on the couch to listen.
And right away, she fell into a sound sleep. As soon as I stopped playing the Bach prelude, and moved on to another piece, she would wake up. So I practiced the prelude for as long as I could – 1 to 2 hours, to let her stay in that deep healing sleep.
One of the things I love to do as I am learning a new piece, is to find out as much as I can about who the composer was as a person. I always find that this helps me to connect with them on a human, heart to heart, level.
As I gathered a few stories about Bach’s life, his family, his struggles and his joys, I saw an amazing human being.
I saw a human being who would throw his wig (he hated his wig) at the organist in a fit of temper in a rehearsal. I saw a human being who would howl with laughter at being the brunt of practical jokes from former students.
I saw a human being who would not think twice of writing letters of support for his students or colleagues. I saw a human being who would stand up and speak of inappropriate or unkind behavior. A comment to a Duke, who was him employer at the time, that he should treat his nephew better, landed Bach in jail for 6 months.
I saw a human being of the highest moral and ethical standards. And a human being who lived life to the fullest from a beer at the tavern with friends, to playing with his kids, to creating some of the greatest music humanity has ever known.
He KNEW that his music served a higher purpose. He planted that higher purpose in every note. It didn’t matter if the piece was for entertainment for a dinner party or for the weekly service at church. Bach wrote “For the glory of God” in the margins to many of his manuscripts as a reminder of this purpose.
Here are a couple of videos for you to enjoy of two of Bach’s pieces. I play both of these on my guitar and love every note.
I’m always so inspired when I see the fun and imaginative ways that people share his music.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring:
Prelude 1 from The Well Tempered Clavier