Investing in our Musical Heritage The Chorale and the St. Thomas Church

During an academic sabbatical in 2002, Dr. Christopher M. Cock spent many weeks in Leipzig, Germany, researching in this historic Bach city. The St. Thomas Church in Leipzig is where Johann Sebastian Bach served as Thomaskantor for 27 years. During this time, he crafted many of his well known liturgical compositions and led the Thomanerchor, the famous boy’s choir that recently celebrated it’s 805th anniversary.

Shortly after his work in Leipzig, Dr. Cock received an invitation to return with the Valparaiso University Chorale in 2004 for a residency at the St. Thomas Church. During this residency, the Chorale led all of the weekend services, as the Thomanerchor typically does, including the presentation of the weekly Bach cantata. No American university choir had ever received such a prestigious invitation, and since that time the Chorale has completed five additional residencies.

In June 2012, during the annual Leipzig Bach Festival and the 800th anniversary celebration of the St. Thomas Church and the Thomanerchor, Valparaiso University president Mark Heckler signed an agreement with the St. Thomas Church and the Forum Thomanum, resolving to continue musical, cultural, educational and theological exchanges for many years to come. These exchanges include continued performances by the Chorale at the St. Thomas Church, scholarly endeavors by the Bach Institute at Valparaiso University in Leipzig and theological and musical contributions by members of the St. Thomas clergy and cantors on the Valparaiso University campus.

On October 31, 2017, under the direction of Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz, the Chorale joined the Thomanerchor in the performance of J.S. Bach’s well known Reformation cantata 80, Ein fest Burg ist unser Gott. This was the first time the Chorale has performed together with this historic choir.

The Reformation Day festival service at the St. Thomas Church was “standing room only” and featured the Chorale’s performance of the world premiere of a new composition by Thomaskantor emeritus Georg Christoph Biller, entitled Veni Creator Spiritus. This work was commissioned by Valparaiso University for the Reformation celebration and featured text in several languages, calling for the Holy Spirit to guide us, a timely message for this modern world.

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