my mother with my daughter, The Hague, summer of 2009
This year, on March 24, my mother would have turned 71. Sadly, she left us on November 19, 2010, after a tragic illness we only understood to be a terminal one on September 5 of that same year. To say that those months were an emotional roller coaster for all involved is an understatement. Normally very liberal and progressive in her Christianity, my mother turned very pious in her last weeks, and during that time she didn’t really let any persons in anymore, only music.
One of the major reasons I started this blog in January 2016 was to continue my mother’s legacy of playing the cantata for the appropriate Sunday every week, but also to remember the joy of going to concerts with my mother and listening to recordings together with her.
So I would like to think of this post as a short radio program with beautiful Bach music, featuring three soprano arias I strongly associate with my mother, sung by singers she and I adore(d).
A fond childhood memory is my mother, my sister, and I taking the bus from the little town we lived in to a town 15 kilometers (9 miles) away, where my mother was going to sing a solo in a wedding service. I remember what she wore: a light blue dress with tiny white and red flowers on it, a narrow red belt, and red sandals with heels. The solo she was singing was the aria “Sehet in Zufriedenheit” from cantata 202. I remember being in awe that she was standing there on the organ loft and singing it so beautifully. A gorgeous example of this aria, in the exact tempo in which my mother liked to perform it, is this recording of Nancy Argenta with Ensemble Sonnerie under the direction of Monica Huggett:
Sehet in Zufriedenheit
See in contentment
Tausend helle Wohlfahrtstage,
a thousand bright and prosperous days,
Dass bald bei der Folgezeit
so that soon as time passes
Eure Liebe Blumen trage!
your love may bear its flower!
Much later, my parents had a subscription to the series of cantata performances by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra with Ton Koopman, and there they got to see and hear many different soprano soloists. I remember them being impressed with Caroline Stam. Hear her sing the aria “Es ist und bleibt der Christen Trost” from cantata 44, one of my mother’s favorite Bach cantata arias of all time, with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Ton Koopman.
Es ist und bleibt der Christen Trost,
The consolation of Christians is and remains
Dass Gott vor seine Kirche wacht.
God’s watchful care over his church.
Denn wenn sich gleich die Wetter türmen,
For even though at times the clouds gather,
So hat doch nach den Trübsalstürmen
yet after the storms of affliction
Die Freudensonne bald gelacht.
the sun of joy has soon smiled on us.
We felt extremely blessed that Caroline Stam agreed to sing at my mother’s funeral service. We asked her to sing Purcell’s “Evening Hymn,” since that had been in the top 5 on my mother’s iPod in her last weeks. But for the Bach aria, we let Caroline pick what she would like to sing. I am still very grateful for that decision. Always very conscious of texts, Caroline chose the hauntingly beautiful “Die Seele ruht” from cantata 127. For years, I have not been able to listen to this aria, but now I can again, though it still makes me cry a little. Hear Dorothee Mields sing this aria with Collegium Vocale Ghent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe:
Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen,
My soul rests in the hands of Jesus,
Wenn Erde diesen Leib bedeckt.
Though earth covers this body
Ach ruft mich bald, ihr Sterbeglocken,
Ah, call me soon, you funereal bells,
Ich bin zum Sterben unerschrocken,
I am not terrified to die
Weil mich mein Jesus wieder weckt.
Since my Jesus will awaken me again.
If you would like to read more, here are five posts from 2016 in which I talk about my mother a lot or a little bit:
The order of things
Glorious soprano arias and unusual instrumentation
The Crown on Bach’s 1723 Trinity season
Many things to be proud of
Our Christmas Morning
Wieneke Gorter, March 24, 2017