This post is letting out a bit of my inner nerd, but I’m all right with that, because not only do I love this man’s many compositions, I have enjoyed learning about his life as well. I hope you do as well.
J.S. Bach lived from 1685 – 1750. During his lifetime, he was most famous as a church organist, but today, we revere him practically as the “patron saint” of classical music. Most other famous composers – Beethoven being the most significant one – came after him and were influenced by his music. A few years after Bach heard a famous organist playing, he decided that his purpose in life was to create “well regulated church music to the glory of God.”
Everything Bach did was for this purpose. His orchestrations were signed “S.D.G” – Soli Deo Gloria, latin for “To the Glory of God”. In his book of the Little Organ Book, a “secular” work, he wrote in the beginning, “To God alone the praise be given for what’s herein to man’s use written.” His son once said that all of them “were in the habit of beginning all things with religion.” Everything was spiritual to Bach, even smoking. He wrote in a poem:
“On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.”
J.S. Bach took to heart this quote from Martin Luther, who was an influence on Bach’s life: “I wish to see all arts, principally music, in the service of Him who gave and created them. Music is a fair and glorious gift of God. I would not for the world forego my humble share of music. Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry, and smile through their troubles in song. Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art of affording peace and joy of the heart… the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”
And work Bach did. He accredited his genius not to any particular ability, but to practice, telling a student, “Just practice diligently, and it will go very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine.” He also once said, after being asked about his musical prowess, “I was made to work; if you are equally industrious you will be equally successful.” In a world where distractions are constantly vying for our attention, this thought is key. Bach did much more than the average person, but he never complained. He instead found joy in his work, and did his very best to glorify God. We say we don’t have the time; but are we being honest? Bach’s life is an example that there is far more time in our day than we could ever have imagined, if we would but search it out and “redeem” it (Eph. 5:16).
You can find an excellent album with 100 pieces of Bach’s music, and many other classical composers, for just $1.99 here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Supreme-Classical-Masterpieces-Masters/dp/B005WW94ZS/ref=sr_shvl_album_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1328318625&sr=301-3
Many of the facts and quotes came from a great book called “Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers” by Patrick Kavanaugh. It’s an amazing book, and very encouraging to read if you love classical music.
Blessings, my dear readers! S.D.G.!