Friday, April 6, 2007

St. Matthaus' Passion...

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. A holiday I associate with people in bunny costumes, egg hunts, sunrise services, light-colored Easter dresses, and songs like "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" (Aaaaaaaaal-le-lu-ia!).

And today is Good Friday, the most tragic observance in the Christian church year. The day of Christ's death. For this, I have memories of candle-light services, leaving the church in silence to the sound of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded".

As most of my new perceptions of Holland come directly or indirectly through the world of music, it shouldn't surprise you that a significant musical tradition of this holiday stands out to me.

For the last week, throughout the country, you can catch a performance of the St. Matthauw's Passion by Bach, in its entirety, in about fifty different places. Both professional and amateur musical organizations partake. It's nearly an epidemic. An outbreak, if you will.

The performances generally take place in the week or so before Easter. Interestingly, performances on or surrounding Good Friday often begin around 11:30 in the morning, so that the work ends near 3pm - the recognized time of day when Jesus died.

Among musicologists, there is often agreement that, should all other music disappear, as long as the work of Bach remained, everything could be re-constructed. And if it's possible to temporarily forget what our ears have heard in recent centuries, Bach's indubitable inspiration and genius are that much clearer.

Treat yourself to a listen sometime. I take full responsibility if you are left unsatisfied.

Other interesting tidbits about how Easter is celebrated here:

There are two days of Easter...the First (Sunday) and the Second (Monday). Generally, stores are closed on Good Friday, and both Easter days.

The Dutch word for Easter is 'Paas'. Look familiar? The famous US brand of Easter egg dying supplies is also called Paas.

To wish someone Happy Easter, you say "fijne Paasdagen."

From what I understand, the general consensus in Western Europe is to recognize Ascension Day (a week and a half before sometime in mid-May) as the day of celebrating Jesus' resurrection. Not Easter Sunday morning.

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter and a beautiful spring,

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