A Visit to Bach’s Church

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Thomaskirche
The Thomaskirche in Leipzig

Today we drove from Paderborn to Leipzig for the final performance of the tour which will take place on Saturday night (tomorrow). Our concert venue will be none other than the famous church where Johann Sebastian Bach worked for 27 years (1723-1750), the Thomaskirche.

After we checked into the hotel, we went over to the church to go over some details for the concert and do a little sightseeing (there won’t be much time for that on the day of the concert). The weather here is about the same as it was in Paderborn, but no snow is predicted for the next few days.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you first step inside a building steeped in so much musical history. After studying and performing Bach’s music for so many years, to finally stand in the middle of his church and take it all in was indeed very moving.

Thomaskirche organ
The pulpit (left) and organ loft (rear) of the Thomaskirche. (Click image for larger view)

Unlike the churches in Paderborn, there are no Christmas trees in the Thomaskirche, but a large Star of Bethlehem is displayed in the front of the church. A guide from the church told us that the organ in the choir loft is not Bach’s original organ, but one that has been recently refurbished. As it turns out, we will be performing the concert from the choir loft tomorrow and not from the front of the church, so I’ll get a good look at the organ tomorrow. A second, smaller organ sits on the North side of the church (across from the pulpit) which is an organ closer to what Bach might have played.

In addition to the statues of Bach and Mendelssohn outside the church, there are also stained glass windows that pay homage to those two famous Leipzig composers (they were installed after 1889). A nice display of musical instruments from Bach’s time (two timpani and a set of string instruments) along with facsimiles of some manuscripts resides in the South Sacristy to the right of the altar.

Elisa at Bach's Grave
Elisa at Bach's grave on the main altar of the Thomaskirche.

The most significant monument to J. S. Bach in the church, above all, is his grave site on the main altar. A tour guide told us that people regularly leave flowers on the simple stone that bears his name which is built into the floor. During our visit we saw that some people had left elegant paper cranes in addition to the flowers (you can see them at the bottom of the picture on the left).

I can hardly believe that we will be performing here tomorrow. It’s a great honor and privilege because, as the tour guide reminded me, “he [J.S. Bach] will be listening, too!”

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