Music for the Feast of St. Nicholas 

On this day, three hundred years ago, J. S. Bach’s Cantata, Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet! (Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!, BWV 70a) was debuted in Weimar, Germany. That being said, this piece would be a lovely choice for free listening this afternoon (“Concert Hour”), as dinner music this evening, or played as part of the soundtrack of a St. Nicholas party or tea. Bach, being the concertmaster of the palace church, was obligated to compose new performance pieces for various church services. Written for the Second Sunday of Advent, and with that day’s Second Coming scriptures in mind (Rom. 15:4-14, Luke 21:25-36), this piece for choir, four soloists, and small instrumental ensemble was later expanded under the same name for the 26th Sunday of Trinitytide (BWV 70). Following the cantata form, it begins with a choral movement and is followed by four solo vocal movements, called arias, and concludes with a chorale. A video performance of this work is below for you family’s listening pleasure.  I have included an English translation of the sung text from Emmanuel Music, since the piece is in the original German.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

1. Chorus 

Watch! pray! pray! watch! Be ready all the time, until the Lord of glory brings this world to an end.

2. Alto Aria

When will the day come, on which we shall depart out of the Egypt of this world? Ah! Let us soon flee out of Sodom, before the fire falls on us! Watch, souls, get up from your complacency and believe, it is the end of time!

3. Soprano Aria

Let the tongues of the mockers scorn, yet it will and must occur, that we shall behold Jesus upon the clouds, in the heights. World and heaven may pass away, Christ’s word must remain firm. Let the tongues of the mockers scorn; yet it will and must occur!

4. Tenor Aria

Lift up your heads and be comforted, o righteous ones, even to the bloom of your souls! You shall flourish in Eden, serving God eternally.

5. Bass Aria

Blessed day of revival, lead me to your halls! Resound, peal, last stroke, world and heaven, fall in ruins! Jesus leads me to quiet, to the place where pleasure is complete.

6. Chorale

Not for the world, nor for heaven does my soul long and yearn, I desire Jesus and His light, Who has with God forgiven me, Who frees me from judgment, I will not abandon my Jesus

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