By Joe Miller, CCM Professor and Director of Choral Studies
Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos (1925-74), ends her poem La anunciación by stating:
Porque desde el principio me estabas destinado
era mi soledad un tránsito sombrío
y un ímpetus de fiebre inconsolable.
Because from the start you were fated to be mine
my solitude was a somber passage,
an impetus of inconsolable fever.
In Bach’s exuberant Magnificat in D Major, he celebrates the miracle of anticipating new life, but he also illuminates the anxiety and trepidation that Mary feels. Giving birth for the first time comes with a tidal wave of emotion. As family members we often focus on the joy and anticipation of birth, but it is equally important to consider the gravity and worry that a woman must experience. The attraction to this work is in the tension between these contrasting emotional states.
In opposition to the Magnificat, the text and music of Bach’s famous solo cantata Ich habe genung offers a glimpse into the end of life. This cantata written for the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is now celebrated on the second day of Christmas. Ulrich Leisinger tells us that: “the Bible reading for the feast is from St. Luke, 2:25. In this reading, it was revealed to the god-fearing Simeon that he should not see death before he had seen Christ, the Lord’s anointed. He was brought by the Holy Spirit to the temple, where Mary and Joseph were present. There, he took the child Jesus in his arms, praised God and said: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.' This sentence is implicit in the libretto, characterized by the joyful expectation of death, which an unknown librettist compiled for Johann Sebastian Bach.” As in the Magnificat, the text and music of Ich habe genung creates the tension between life and death.
Guest artist Taylor Carrasco and I developed this program by weaving together a narrative built from both works. The order was determined by building contrast in the emotional states of the characters and the attention to light and dark. Through dance and Bach’s meaningful music we hope to draw attention to the commonalities that we share as human beings. Our shared experience of life and death are viscerally expressed through art. The music of the body and the movement of sound are natural conduits for expression.