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Choir Form
Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Choir rules from 1668 (Celle)

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 31, 2007):
While googling for something else, I came upon these interesting excerpts (unfortunately only excerpts) from a document stipulating the rules that a choir must follow. This document from Celle goes back to 1668 and relates most likely to the main church in that city. It is unclear what the range of ages for these boys/young men. The mention of a rector being involved in a decision means that this must have been a school-church relationship similar to St. Thomas in Leipzig during Bach's tenure. There are some similarities between both, but also some differences as might be expected based upon the region and the size and importance of the cities involved.

>>Aus der Chorordnung von 1668 Celle
(Excerpts from the Choir Rules from 1668 in the City of Celle

1. Niemand darf in den Chor eintreten ohne Erlaubnis des Rektors oder Kantors.
("No one is allowed to become a member of the choir without the permission of the school principal or the
cantor")

2. Wer an den Übungsstunden fehlt, zahlt 1 Groschen.
[1 Groschen (a silver coin) = $3.00 according to Wolff]
("Whoever misses the choir practice sessions must pay 1 groschen.")

3. Wer ohne Erlaubnis die Kirche verlässt, zahlt 2 Groschen.
("Whoever leaves the church without permission must pay 2 groschen.")

4. Wer ohne Erlaubnis verreist, zahlt 3 Groschen.
("Whoever goes on a trip without permission must pay 3 groschen.")

5. Wer ohne Erlaubnis fehlt, zahlt 6 Groschen.
("Whoever is missing without permission must pay 6 groschen.")

6. Wer auf der Straße nicht singen will, sondern gähnend herumsteht, oder sich mit Zechbrüdern irgendwo herumtreibt, zahlt 2 Groschen.
("Whoever does not want to go out into the streets to sing, but would rather stand around yawning or go off somewhere with his drinking buddies must pay 2 groschen."

7. Wer dem Praefectus Gehorsam verweigert, wird entsprechend bestraft.
("Whoever refuses to obey the Prefect will be punished accordingly.")

8. Bei Hochzeiten und Festschmäusen dürfen nur die erscheinen, die der Cantor aussucht. Sie haben stehend ihre Pflicht zu tun und danach bescheiden abzutreten.
("In the case of weddings and festive banquets, only those chosen by the cantor may appear [at these occasions and sing along]. They must carry out their (singing) duties while standing only and after that they should modestly retire [from the scene].")

9. Bei der Verteilung des Geldes hat jeder Sänger zufrieden zu sein mit dem Anteil, den Rektor und Cantor nach weiser Überlegung für ihn bestimmten. Wer zu widersprechen wagt, wird aus dem Chor verstoßen.
("Regarding the distribution of money [collected from singing], each singer must [accept and] be satisfied with the amount which the rector and cantor have wisely decided is correct for him. Whoever dares to contradict (express dissatisfaction with this amount), will be excluded [lose membership in] from the choir."]

10. Die Strafgelder werden entweder unter die verteilt, die ihre Sache gut gemacht haben oder zur Anschaffung von Gesangbüchern benutzt.
("The fines [monies obtained from breaking the rules] will either be distributed among those who have 'done a good job' [of singing] or be used for procuring [buying] hymnals.")<<

What happens if you missed a few practice sessions (2 or 3 groschen) and were missing from singing in church without obtaining permission beforehand (6 groschen) and the reason for your absence was a trip for which no permission was granted (3 groschen)? Are these fines cumulative in this fashion?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 31, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The mention of a rector being involved in a decision means that this must have been a school-church relationship similar to St. Thomas in Leipzig during Bach's tenure. There are some similarities between both, but also some differences as might be expected based upon the region and the size and importance of the cities involved.
The interesting thing about rules and regulations is that the infractions give us a much livelier picture of daily life in the school >
< („No one is allowed to become a member of the choir > without the permission of the school principal or the cantor”) >
** Could indicate that boys without the requisite musical skills were being made members so that they could benefit from the income.

< („Whoever misses the choir practice sessions must pay 1 groschen.”) >
** Perhaps they thought their sight-reading abilities excused them

< („Whoever leaves the church without permission must pay 2 groschen.”) >
** Skipping out early on a service is a problem in every choral institution

< („Whoever goes on a trip without permission must pay 3 groschen.“) >
** These constant references to students going AWOL indicate that 18th century schools were not like their 19th century counterparts which were all but prisons

< (“Whoever does not want to go out into the streets to sing, but would rather stand around yawning or go off somewhere with his drinking buddies must pay 2 groschen >
** Yawning and drinking ... At what age did these kids start boozing up?

< („Whoever refuses to obey the Prefect will be punished accordingly.”) >
** "I don't want to sing Soprano 2, I wnt to sing Soprano 1!"

< („In the case of weddings and festive banquets, only those chosen by the cantor may appear [at these occasions and sing along]. They must carry out their (singing) duties while standing only and after that they should modestly retire [from the scene].”) >
** Standing was the normal posture for musicians. In aristocratic and courtly households, musicians spent most of their lives on their feet.

< each singer must [accept and] be satisfied with the amount which the rector and cantor have wisely decided is correct for him. Whoever dares to contradict (express dissatisfaction with this amount), will be excluded [lose membership in] from the choir.”] >
** "That's all I get for standing in the rain for that funeral?!"

< The fines [monies obtained from breaking the rules] will either be distributed among those who have ‘done a good job’ [of singing] or be used for procuring [buying] hymnals.”)<<
** I see major fights between the goody-two-shoes and the malfeasants

< What happens if you missed a few practice sessions (2 or 3 groschen) and were missing from singing in church without obtaining permission beforehand (6 groschen) and the reason for your absence was a trip for which no permission was granted (3 groschen)? Are these fines cumulative in this fashion? >
** It does suggest that cumulatiive rehearsals were highy valued.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 31, 2007):
<< („Whoever refuses to obey the Prefect will be punished accordingly.”) >>
< ** "I don't want to sing Soprano 2, I want to sing Soprano 1!" >
Whoever refuses to obey the Prefect really gets in trouble with the Big Guy, and that's bad. The Big Guy might throw his wig, or pull a sword on you and call you animal names; or, worst of all, he might write some absolutely impossible stuff for you to sight-read next Sunday morning.

"Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball"

 

Sizes of Bach's Choirs

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 2, 2007):
Distribution and numbers of singers in Bach's choirs in Leipzig over a period of circa 15 years:

Bach-Dokumente I, Item 180 dated May 18, 1729 [Autograph]

1. St. Nicholas
1st Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten (Sopranos)
3 Altisten (Altos)
3 Tenoristen (Tenors)
3. Bassisten (Basses)

2. St. Thomas
2nd Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten
3 Altisten
3 Tenoristen
3 Bassisten

3. New Church
3rd Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten
3 Altisten
3 Tenoristen
3 Bassisten

4. Also St. Peters
4th Choir (8 boys)
2 Sopranisten
2 Altisten
2 Tenoristen
2 Bassisten etc.

"Entwurff" August 23, 1730 [Autograph]

Each choir should have at least 12 singers:
3 Sopranos
3 Altos
3 Tenors
3 Basses

Ideally each choir shouhave 16 singers with 4 voices on each part.

The Makeup of the ,Thomanerchor' 1744/1745 (From the Leipzig City Archive [Sift B VIII.26]) - [This document is not in Bach's handwriting.]

Choirs that take care of singing in the churches on Sundays
This list begins on Pentecost 1744 and is valid until Pentecost 1745

To sing in both the St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Churches:
[All the actual names of the singers are listed individually under each choir number.]

1st Choir (17 names) possibly 4 singers for each part + one to spare
2nd Choir (17 names) possibly 4 singers for each part + one to spare

For the New Church:
3rd Choir (13 names) possibly 3 singers for each part + one to spare

For St. Peters Church
4th Choir (7 names) (possibly sing unison only- no tenors or basses)

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Ideally each choir should have 16 singers with 4 voices on each part. >
The problem here is that the lists of voices don't tell us if all of the voices on the roster sang at the same time with multiple voices on each part. Or whether different ensembles from within the choir sang different pieces. For example, one quartet or octet may have sung the introit motet and another similar ensemble sung the cantata.

Given the absence of documents, we can only postulate various configurations with degrees of probabilty. For instance. I find it practically impossible to beleive that 3 or 4 singers read from the same manuscript. Two singers is quite probable.

With such a tight rehearsal schedule, it makes practical sense that one quartet would be preparing the introit motet, one quartet the sermon cantata and another quartet the communion cantata. That would leave 4 people
available to fill holes created by illness or going AWOL.

My personal preference -- which is not grounded in any documents other than the survival of single parts for the chorus -- is for a "choral" ensemble of two to a part which would be an octet in the cantatas but frequently OVPP in double-choir motets.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Andreas Glöckner, "Bemerkungen zur vokalen und instrumentalen Besetzung von Bachs Leipziger Ensemblewerken", pp. 86-96, contained in "Vom Klang der Zeit: Besetzung, Bearbeitung und Aufführungspraxis bei Johann Sebastian Bach" Ulrich Bartels and Uwe Wolf, editors, Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden, 2004.

Summary of ideas and some important references from the above article:

Since the 1980s there have been heated discussions about the number of singers and players who took part in Bach's sacred music performances in Leipzig. Controversy surrounds the interpretation of the relevant documents and the results are often contradictory interpretations of the same sources, one example of which is Bach's "Entwurff" from August 23, 1730. Still lacking is a comprehensive evaluation of all pertinent, available sources which have been overlooked thus far and which will help to point out the differences between the existing conditions in the "Thomaskantorat" [all the choirs in various churches under the cantor's directorship] and those existing in other towns and cities of Middle Germany at that time.

Bach can be blamed for causing this heated debate because of his rather unclear, one-sided description of his performance conditions as given in his position paper, the "Entwurff". In it, he does not, for instance, indicate just how he goes about resolving situations when he is faced with shortages of singers and players. He only mentions specifically those extra [beyond what must be supplied from the Thomanerchor] musicians who are officially obliged to perform when requested: the city pipers (4 of these plus 3 violinists ["Kunstgeiger"]). The number of the latter instrumentalists had stayed about the same for a century. Since Johann Schelle's cantorship, some attempts had been made to increase the number of paid alumni positions (these would be former Thomaner who had graduated and were either students at the University of Leipzig or held other positions such as
apprenticeships).

In Bach's statistical presentation, those 'helpers' that he relied upon from the moment he arrived in Leipzig as being his hidden reserves, a pool of unlisted, unremunerated vocalists and instrumentalists that were necessary for performing his figural music are missing from the archived records because they did not receive their remuneration in cash over a specific period of time for which the receipt of cash would have to be acknowledged. This pool consisted of substitutes, adjuncts, and music apprentices, in the latter case learning to become a city piper. An example of the latter would be Johann Ferdinand Bamberg, who, as the official city council record from 1737 indicated, had 'assisted' Gottfried Reiche, Bach's foremost trumpeter, while the latter was still alive until 1734. Now [in 1737] Bamberg was seeking to attain (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) a firm position as city piper, a privilege which only the city council could grant him. It can be assumed that Bamberg would also have participated in Bach's performances, most likely as the 3rd trumpeter, yet this latter position is listed by Bach in 1730 as 'vacant' because Bamberg had not yet achieved a fixed, firm position. It is much more likely that Bamberg would have played the 3rd trumpet part for festive occasions than to assume that a Thomaner would have been pressed into providing this service.

Other city piper apprentices, who also may have participated in like fashion, at least in a subordinate role, are Michael Heinrich Glandenberg and the son of the city piper, Johann Caspar Gleditsch.

Also not mentioned in Bach's statistical listing in the "Entwurff" are the students from the University of Leipzig and other "Adjuvanten" [like the university students, these were also individual, independent assistants/helpers not organized into special groups as was the case in many other towns and cities]. During Johann Schelle's tenure as Thomaskantor, it was not possible to perform any figural music in the churches without the help of either of these two 'groups'. This fact was still true in 1710 when Johann Friedrich Fasch applied for the position of University Music Director. In a letter addressed to the university authorities, Fasch argued that the Thomaskantor, Johann Kuhnau, was unable to present any sufficiently orchestrated ['besetzt' = 'with a sufficient supply of musicians to sing and play all the parts] figural music without the participation of university students. "Wie denn auch 5) jedermann bekant, daß ohne Hülffe derer H. ,Studiosorum' der H. ,Cantor' keine vollstimmende ,Music' würde bestellen können" ("And as also everyone knows, the [Thomas]kantor would be unable to present a performance of music fully-orchestrated [and/or with sufficient musicians playing and singing all the required parts] without the help of university students."

Although these indispensable 'helpers' "zur Verstärckung derer Kirchen 'Musiquen'" ("for the purpose of strengthening/giving support to the presentation of figural music" Bach's own words from the "Entwurff") are not listed or accounted for specifically in his enumeration of existing forces, they do play a central role in his subsequent argumentation: Bach complains that the city council had gradually withdrawn its financial support for the few remaining individuals still being paid to provide musical assistance for performing figural music. This, Bach explained, was the reason why it was becoming very difficult to 'animate' such 'helpers' to continue performing in the churches. The list of such assistants that did receive stipends from the council from 1723 to 1730 is a bit larger than Bach would make it appear. Perhaps Bach deliberately tried to cloud this issue by not giving accurate and detailed statistics regarding this matter. The list of names of former music students for whom Bach wrote recommendations is currbeing expanded by research being conducted by the Leipziger Bach-Archiv. One such example that deserves to be mentioned here is that of a university student, Georg Gottfried Wagner, harpsichordist, violinist, and violoncellist, who received official stipends for his participation in the figural music performed during the years 1724 to 1726. Also to be mentioned in this regard are two bass singers/bass players [in older German from Bach's time, "Bassist" could mean either one of the former], Johann Christoph Samuel Lipsius and Ephraim Jacob Otto, who also received stipends from the city council treasury. We also know that Bach's private music students participated in the figural music performances as well, among them: Christoph Birkmann, Friedrich Gottlieb Wild, Johann Christoph Hoffmann, Christoph Gottlob Wecker, Bernhard Dietrich Ludewig, and last, but not least, Johann Christoph Altnickol, Bach's son-in-law.

Despite all the inconsistencies in Bach's presentation as contained in the "Entwurff", one thing is quite clear: his goal was to eliminate the shortages of vocalists and instrumentalists who would no longer want to continue to perform on such a temporary or haphazard basis for payment of their services. This is why Bach withholds/keeps secret the fact that has been paying his 'helpers' out of his own pocket, or possibly giving free music lessons to worthy students in return for their help in performing the figural music in the churches. These were only temporary solutions which became intolerable the longer they lasted. This is why Bach demanded well-paid musicians, professional in capacity, so that he would not have to resign himself to depending only on the semi-professional musicians that he had. Bach's predecessor, Johann Kuhnau, had already complained that, for his figural music in the churches, he was forced to depend on beginners and "the pupils (Thomaner) who went about screaming themselves hoarse in the streets when they were not ill or in a bad mood, and also some of the city pipers and violinists apprentices who were not that well skilled [to perform the difficult music]" ("auff den Gaßen sich heiser schreyenden, im übrigen kranck- und kräzigten Schülern nebenst einigen unter denen Stadt 'Musicis' und Gesellen nicht gar zu schickten 'Subjectis' behelfen").

Bach suggests a professional ensemble of singers and instrumentalists comparable to that of the Court Chapel in Dresden. These musicians are paid very well and only have to concentrate on one instrument or voice part. This was the type of musician Bach had become accustomed to having in Weimar and Cöthen. Now, however, with diminishing funds in the city treasury, Bach confronts the city council with his unattainable goals which would be impossible to finance. These were the 'impossible' conditions under which Bach's predecessors had to work. One reason that Bach hesitated before accepting the position in Leipzig was that Bach must have seen all this coming. Bach's envisioned performance requirements were hardly attainable in Leipzig other than on certain festive occasions. His demands for deep-reaching structural changes in the required conditions for performing church music in the four churches served by the St. Thomas Kantorat [the legally constituted musical organization which requires that Thomaner - the pupils of the St. Thomas School - be used to supply all the choral music including the figural music in the church services in 4 churches] could hardly move the members of the city council, most of whom preferred to maintain, as it had been the case for many decades, the status quo in these musical operations, at least as far as outward appearances would allow this. Their attitude would have been: "Why spend more money on professional musicians, when the Thomaner alumni, university students and other types of musical assistants ("Adjuvanten") still continued to help out without requiring to be paid for their services?" Only very few of the city council members would have sensed the urgency behind Bach's pleas for reform except, for instance, the mayor Gottfried Lange, who had a special interest in musical matters. The rest of the council members would hardly have been aware of the gradual change that had gradually been taking place under the previous cantors, Knüpfer, Schelle, Kuhnau and now Bach, from functional music that was easier to perform to the concertante figural music which was much more difficult to perform properly. The existing conditions would continue to prevail without change until Johann Adam Hiller, as cantor at St. Thomas, succeeded in bringing about several necessary structural changes to alleviate the situation. As viewed from the standpoint of Bach's immediate predecessors and even a few successors, Bach's description of conditions in the "Entwurff" are essentially the same as those described by the others; hence a basically new interpretation of the "Entwurff", at least as compared to the others, becomes unnecessary.

Regarding the number of instrumentalists required for performing figural music, Kuhnau provides a list in his petition to the city council dated March 17, 1709: "2 or more trumpets, 2 oboes or cornets, 3 trombones and other similar 'pipes', 2 bassoons", and he required at least 4 players each for the 1st and 2nd violins, and at least 2 players each for the other string instruments (viola, violoncello, violone). When it came to the singers, his list becomes less concrete in giving numbers. In a petition dated December 18, 1717, he complains that there are not enough Thomaner because he needed for his 1st choir where the most difficult music was being performed "viel Sing- als 'Concert- und Capell-Stimmen, oder dem so genannten 'Ripieno'" ("many vocalists divided into two groups: the concertists and the ripienists"). Here Kuhnau is referring to his 1st choir where there is no mention of having only one vocalist per part. His demands for additional Thomaner positions to be filled and for stipends for university students give proof that he was not striving for an OVPP figural choir. It was difficult, in any case, for Kuhnau to obtain a continually stable choir with sufficient singers for each part. From one school year to the next, and even during the course of each school year, the number of capable singers did not remain constant. Also illness, or even epidemics could cause the number of singers in the choir to be reduced temporarily.

There were good years with reliable singers among the newly admitted pupils as well as bad/weak years when the talent pool of new, good singers declined. In 1729, Bach could at least find and recommend for admission from new group of applicants, 6 musically very talented sopranos and 2 additional sopranos who still needed to be classified. It is difficult to accept the notion that these singers, from the moment they were admitted, would only participate in the main figural music on an alternating basis. They were required by the school statutes (1723) always to attend without fail each church service whenever figural music was performed. Failure to do so, if repeated after a first warning, would result in being expelled from the school.

In a petition to the Leipzig City Council dated May 18, 1729, the principal of St. Thomas School, Christian Ludwig, indicated that Bach needed 44 boys for singing in all of 5 different churches. In a supplement to this petition, Bach indicated that for singing in both of the main churches, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, he needed 12 Thomaner for each of the two main choirs: 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors and 3 basses. In addition 8 Thomaner with 2 boys for each voice range would be needed for the less demanding chorale singing in the St. Peters Church.

In his "Entwurff", a year later, Bach repeats these demands: "For each musical choir at least 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors and just as many basses are needed," to which he then adds: "of course it would be even better if the entire group were constituted isuch a way that 4 individuals would be singing each vocal part and that every choir could have 16 singers in it. From this we can infer that Bach favored 4 singers for each vocal part.

Lest anyone think that these numbers suggested by Bach were expectations never achieved in reality, consideration should be given to proof given by a detailed listing of all members of the various choirs at a later point during his tenure. This listing for 1744 to 1745 shows for the first two main choirs that serve both St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Churches that there were 17 singers in each choir. For the New Church, where motets were primarily sung since 1704, there were only 13 and for singing chorales in St. Peters Church there were only 7 boys.

For any deficits which might occur, Bach could not only draw upon additional help from university students, but also from the 'Externii' [external students who had not yet attained a "Freistelle" [a free position is one by which a boy would be accepted as one of the 'Internii' - internal students for whom tuition, room and board are completely paid for] or even Bach's sons who did not need to belong to either the Externii or Internii and yet could be relied upon for performance purposes of the primary choir.

The school statutes printed in 1723 stipulated how the boys were to assemble around a 'Pult' (a lectern) in groups: they were to approach the individual lecterns and gather around them so that "each one could see the music and no one would hinder any other singer [from seeing the music on the lectern]."

According to this description several singers were standing around one lectern which sometimes led to crowded conditions making it difficult for some to see the music properly. "After the singing ends, the Praecentor along with those who sing bass and tenor, are to remain at the front of the balcony while the others must go back and sit down on their benches." [This is once again from the 'Schulordnung' of 1723.]

The fact that several singers sang from a single part is documented in a copper engraving contained in the Leipziger Gesangbuch "Unfehlbare Engel-Freude" from 1710. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Ripieni-Examples.htm

Looking at the engraving carefully, one can detect 12 singers who stand together in separate groups. It is difficult to overlook the 3 boys (middle right) who are using a single part to read and sing from. Here the Chorus Musicus is depicted during a performance of figural music. There is, as it appears, a 'concertist' depicted as well. He must have been a university student since he is wearing a sword. All Thomaner were prohibited from carrying any weapons at any time. [See this engraving in Andrew Parrott, in his "The Essential Bach Choir" Boydell, 2000, pp, 54-55, 121.]

Regarding the question concerning how many musicians had to play from a single part, it should be noted and
considered that the majority of parts from the original sets of parts which Bach had prepared or in part copied out himself, the copyists did not pay attention to where they might create a page break (before turning the page/part over to the back side) so that the player would often have to turn the page in the middle of measure/bar. With only one violinist per part, the player would have to stop playing temporarily unless a second violinist playing from the same part would turn the page for him.

Bach's copied parts are generally written out with ample space between notes for easy readability so that at least 2 or 3 performers could use the same part.

In consideration of all the information given above, the report [originally in Latin] by Johann Matthias Gesner, the Rector of St. Thomas School at one point during Bach's tenure in Leipzig, appears to be quite believable when he describes the total number of performers involved in presenting figural music with the primary choir as being from 30 to 40 musicians, all of them involved simultaneously with no groups, teams, or individuals sitting on the sidelines because they have been involved in performing elsewhere. [See NBR, item 328, pp. 328-329] As Rector of St. Thomas School, one would hardly be able to insinuate or allege that Gesner concocted some imaginary figures and thus gave false information about the actual state of affairs concerning the involvement of many of the pupils in his charge.

Another primary source which corroborates Gesner's statement is that of a chronicler, Johann Christian Trömer [Bach-Dokumente II, item 220] who describes the performance of a Nameday cantata for Friedrich August I "Entfernet euch, ihr heitern Sterne", BWV Anh. 9, and mentions that there were 300 university students who carried torches and more than 40 musicians who performed the cantata. Of course, such a cantata would be very festive with the use of brass and timpani while a normal Sunday performance of a cantata would more likely have 30 participants. From this standpoint, Gesner's indication of "30 to 40" performers becomes much more plausible.

Distribution and numbers of singers in Bach's choirs in Leipzig over a period of circa 15 years:

Bach-Dokumente I, Item 180 dated May 18, 1729 [Autograph]

1. St. Nicholas
1st Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten (Sopranos)
3 Altisten (Altos)
3 Tenoristen (Tenors)
3. Bassisten (Basses)

2. St. Thomas
2nd Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten
3 Altisten
3 Tenoristen
3 Bassisten

3. New Church
3rd Choir (12 boys)
3 Discantisten
3 Altisten
3 Tenoristen
3 Bassisten

4. Also St. Peters
4th Choir (8 boys)
2 Sopranisten
2 Altisten
2 Tenoristen
2 Bassisten etc.

"Entwurff" August 23, 1730 [Autograph]

Each choir should have at least 12 singers:
3 Sopranos
3 Altos
3 Tenors
3 Basses

Ideally each choir should have 16 singers with 4 voices on each part.

The Makeup of the ,Thomanerchor' 1744/1745 (From the Leipzig City Archive [Sift B VIII.26]) - [This document is not in Bach's handwriting.]

Choirs that take care of singing in the churches on Sundays
This list begins on Pentecost 1744 and is valid until Pentecost 1745

To sing in both the St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Churches:
[All the actual names of the singers are listed individually under each choir number.]

1st Choir (17 names) possibly 4 singers for each part + one to spare
2nd Choir (17 names) possibly 4 singers for each part + one to spare

For the New Church:
3rd Choir (13 names) possibly 3 singers for each part + one to spare

For St. Peters Church
4th Choir (7 names) (possibly sing unison only- no tenors or basses)

Rick Canyon wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Andreas Glöckner, "Bemerkungen zur vokalen und instrumentalen Besetzung von Bachs Leipziger Ensemblewerken", pp. 86-96, contained in "Vom Klang der Zeit: Besetzung, Bearbeitung und Aufführungspraxis bei Johann Sebastian Bach" Ulrich Bartels and Uwe Wolf, editors, Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden, 2004. >
Thanks very much for this post. This will require a full night of reading. I may have missed it as, so far, I only have skimmed the latter sections, but is some allowance made for those Thomaners undergoing voice change? I recall a post saying that current philosophy is to keep a singer singing, tho in the past the belief was to stop singing for a period of time. Am I understanding this correctly? If so, where did Bach fall in this situation? (again, my apologies if this is addressed)

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The problem here is that the lists of voices don't tell us if all of the voices on the roster sang at the same time with multiple voices on each part. Or whether different ensembles from within the choir sang different pieces. For example, one quartet or octet may have sung the introit motet and another similar ensemble sung the cantata.<<
Conjectures such as these are not corroborated by the evidence which keeps piling up in favor of non-OVPP and non-OPPP. This does not mean that the distinction between concertists and ripieni is lost, but merely that a rigid adherence to OVPis entirely out of place as far as the performances of Bach's sacred music in Leipzig is concerned.

DC: >>Given the absence of documents, we can only postulate various configurations with degrees of probabilty.<<
To argue from an 'absence-of-documents' standpoint no longer makes any sense as the evidence contradicting Rifkin's theory increases.

DC: >>For instance. I find it practically impossible to beleive that 3 or 4 singers read from the same manuscript. Two singers is quite probable.<<
What about the concertist in the middle and the 2 ripieni on either side looking on? Is that impossible to believe? Why?

DC: >>With such a tight rehearsal schedule, it makes practical sense that one quartet would be preparing the introit motet, one quartet the sermon cantata and another quartet the communion cantata.<<
The ability to sight-read musically (not mechanically) would obviate the need for such measures. The simplest method involving all the boys directly for both activities is better than a complicated one in which some Thomaner (boys) were kept from singing while others did. These boys had to do a lot of sitting during church services and to have to sit out again when the other half of the boys were singing would be like punishment or possibly make them more difficult to control (discipline in church was always a problem according to the school statutes).

DC: >>My personal preference -- which is not grounded in any documents other than the survival of single parts for the chorus -- is for a "choral" ensemble of two to a part which would be an octet in the cantatas but frequently OVPP in double-choir motets.<<
But Bach's stated preference was for 4 to a part which would mean no OVPP for double-choir motets.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Bach can be blamed for causing this heated debate because of his rather unclear, one-sided description of his performance conditions as given in his position paper, the "Entwurff". In it, he does not, for instance, indicate just how he goes about resolving situations when he is faced with shortages of singers and players. >
It is hard to say whether it is painful or satisfying when one gets to witness the crumbling of an unstable structure. A house of cards, for example.

My personal favorite is when skilled professionals load up some old building with carefully timed explosives, press the plunger, and we watch it implode.

CNN is now hip to this , and usually give the event 'big noise' (magma cum laude?). Relax, hold your keystrokes, I know that the Latin would be magna and magma is for liquid rocks. All other criticism will be accepted with a smile (and rejoinder, if appropriate).

< This pool consisted of substitutes, adjuncts, and music apprentices, in the latter case learning to become a city piper. >
Skilled sight readers, nonetheless?

Etc.

PS For those counting the number of sentences in the quips, I get seven, not counting the Etc. or the PS, but counting all sentence fragments, punctuated as if they were actual sentences.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Looking at the engraving carefully, one can detect 12 singers who stand together in separate groups. It is difficult to overlook the 3 boys (middle right) who are using a single part to read and sing from. >
In the middle group, there is only one singer performing from the part which he is holding. The person on his right is quite clearly watching the singer with closed mouth and looking away from the music. The person on the singer's left is standing at a right angle and not reading the music as well.

All of these engravings (which Parrott reproduces) are crudely drawn with little perspective and even the above interpretation could be debated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< But Bach's stated preference was for 4 to a part which would mean no OVPP for double-choir motets. >
No. This is heart of the debate. Bach is stating what numbers should be in each "choir". He nowhere says that all the singers on that roster sing together. The latter is your "stated preference" not Bach's. The notion that 4 people sang from one part is a physical impossibility. Bach's parts were small not the large choir-book format from the late 17th century which sat on a lectern above the singer's heads.

I don't think we will ever be able to solve this problem.

Ludwig wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Canyon Rick] Bach chorus rarely if ever had more than 16 singers---4 Sop, 4 Alto, 4 Tenors and 4 Basses---most of the time sung by boys and men. Women were not allowed to take part in the services and the one time that Bach insisted that they do by letting his wife sing---he got called on the carpet and eventually was fired for this.

Likewise Bach's church Orchestra was small---rarely more than 25 players---4 Violins, 4 Violist (doubling on the Viola d'amour), 2 Gambist and occaisionally 1 bass.
His woodwinds consisted of Blockflutes---2 doubling on the Flauto traverso, 2 to 4 oboeist and doubling on the Oboe d'amour, Organ.
His brass section ---2 to 4 trumpets, 1-2 Horns (very rarely used), 1-2 trombones-- very rarely used.

Percussion--one tympanist playing on 2 drums.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The ability to sight-read musically (not mechanically) would obviate the need for such measures. >
Compare with the following, from the writer's previous post:

In Bach's statistical presentation, those 'helpers' that he relied upon from the moment he arrived in Leipzig as being his hidden reserves, a pool of unlisted, unremunerated vocalists and instrumentalists that were necessary for performing his figural music.

Ludwig wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Bach always had shortages of players. He simply planned ahead and if he was minus someone--he simply wrote the part for what he knew would be available at the time of the performance. We see this in his rare writing for Horns (occurs only 1-2 times in all of the Cantatas) and Trumpet players and in at least one Cantata (Janzet (sp?) when apparently the entire chorus was out except for one soprano voice.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Canyon Rick wrote:
>>but is some allowance made for those Thomaners undergoing voice change? I recall a post saying that current philosophy is to keep a singer singing, tho in the past the belief was to stop singing for a period of time. Am I understanding this correctly? If so, where did Bach fall in this situation?<<
The 'Schulordnung' of 1723 spells out these circumstances concerning the "Mutation": the Cantor should not force this situation (make the boy continue singing no matter what) and should allow another student to replace a boy whose voice is changing. If the boy asks formally to be excused because of mutation or because he is preparing for a final exam, this excuse should be granted by the cantor. The Rector would have something to say about this matter if the Cantor did not comply with these rules (allowances).

Where did Bach fall in this situation? He went through this process himself and one would expect that he would have some empathy with the boy involved. On the other hand, Bach did not agree with many of the school rules (he even refused to sign an agreement that he accepted and would abide by all the rules contained in the Schulordnung).

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>In the middle group, there is only one singer performing from the part which he is holding. The person on his right is quite clearly watching the singer with closed mouth and looking away from the music. The person on the singer's left is standing at a right angle and not reading the music as well. All of these engravings (which Parrott reproduces) are crudely drawn with little perspective and even the above interpretation could be debated.<<
This is absolutely true here and also with the numerous other engravings which Parrott attempts to present as evidence. What is important here is to note the groups of 3 for each voice part. Beyond this the engrtook the usual liberty of exaggerating the size of the singers and the directions in which they faced. This engraving can only make sense if it is considered with the other evidence given in the article.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
Canyon Rick wrote:
< Thanks very much for this post. This will require a full night of reading. I may have missed it as, so far, I only have skimmed the latter sections, but is some allowance made for those Thomaners undergoing voice change? I recall a post saying that current philosophy is to keep a singer singing, tho in the past the belief was to stop singing for a period of time. Am I understanding this correctly? If so, where did Bach fall in this situation? (again, my apologies if this is addressed) >
When a boy's voice changes, there is a period when he can sing in both registers, the high "head" voice" and the low 'chest" voice. In continental choirs, boys move down to alto when they lose their "top" and then evenutally shift into their adult tenor or bass range.

This is not the case in English choirs where the alto parts are sung by adult males who at the time of the break choose to cultivate the high range in their voices, even though they can also sing in their natural tenor or bass voices.

A student's assignment to one of the four choirs was probably made according to his musical ability. A well-trained young boy could well have been placed by Bach in Choir I and sung successively soprano, alto and then tenor or bass over the years.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>When a boy's voice changes, there is a period when he can sing in both registers, the high "head" voice" and the low 'chest" voice. In continental choirs, boys move down to alto when they lose their "top" and then evenutally shift into their adult tenor or bass range.<<
The "Schulordnung" 1723, Leipzig, stipulates that a boy may not sing soprano voice for more than 5 to 6 years without permission of the school principal. What is the purpose of such a rule? To give other young boys a chance to sing soprano?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>This is heart of the debate. Bach is stating what numbers should be in each "choir". He nowhere says that all the singers on that roster sing together.<<
But now we have evidence from two independent sources: Gesner, with whom Bach had to work together closely during the time when Gesner was the Rector of the Thomasschule and Trömer who gives an independent report on the performance of a cantata in which all 40 musicians participated. Did Bach tell half of the singers that they would only sing in the 1st choral mvt. and the remainder only to sing in the final one while the others stood idly by?

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The "Schulordnung" 1723, Leipzig, stipulates that a boy may not sing soprano voice for more than 5 to 6 years without permission of the school principal. What is the purpose of such a rule? To give other young boys a chance to sing soprano? >
Since regulations are usually a practical reaction to a current problem, we can be pretty certain that the Cantor was prolonging the usual tenure of muscially-talented boys so that he could take advantage of their musicianship. Perhaps there was an unspoken tradition that boys should be singing soprano for x number of years, alto for x number of years and then assume their adult voice. If students were rehearsed by voice type, it may have been thought inappropriate by the non-musical staff that a 15 year old was in the same group as a bunch of 9 year olds.

There may also have been some sort of social attitude which defined various states of childhood and adulthood. If in their last year of school, boys were supposed to be assuming the manners of a university student, singing with the kids may have been deemed to be inappropriate. This regulation has all the marks of a big argument bewteen the Principal and the Cantor over a very talented teenager who was able to sing soprano very late into adolesence.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< But now we have evidence from two independent sources: Gesner, with whom Bach had to work together closely during the time when Gesner was the Rector of the Thomasschule and Trömer who gives an independent report on the performance of a cantata in which all 40 musicians participated. Did Bach tell half of the singers that they would only sing in the 1st choral mvt. and the remainder only to sing in the final one while the others stood idly by? >
The problem we face here is almost insuperable. There are only single parts for four singers in most cantatas, so it looks like OVPP is the only reasonable interpretation. I've never been happy with this solution because it doesn't provide for the traditional distinction between "soloists" ("favoriti") and "choir" ("ripieni") which is crucial in Lutheran music right up to the generation before Bach.

I'm willing to concede that the Big Bach choral sound which we all love is inauthentic. I've become convinced that works like Cantata BWV 106, "Gottes Zeit" and Cantata BWV 4, 'Christ Lag in Todesbanden" are better performed with solo voices. But I can never accept that the "Sanctus" of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) was sung by six voices.

Multiple singers on single parts is a practical problem. Two singers per part works, three singers is a real stretch; four singers is impossible. Even if all the singers in a "choir" performed, that's still only 16 singers which in most modern minds is a very small chamber choir.

If Bach normally used OVPP "choirs" or octets, then we shouldn't worry about singers not performing. In the pressure-cooker of daily services and weekly motets and cantatas, the use of various ensembles would have been a practical necessity. Even today in liturgical churches like the Lutheran, Catholic and Anglican churches, there are various ensemble combinations which allow for breaking down the repertoire for various rehersal time. Attendance at the 3-4 hour Sunday service was viewed primarily as a religious exercise, so musical inactivity would never have been viewed as idleness.

Has anyone compiled the number of singers in the choirs which are used in the various top ensembles (Suzuki, Leusing, Harnncourt, Kopman)?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] All of this is readily available in Andrew Parrott's book (among other places as you've cited here), most of it on a single page.

What's your point, having omitted Parrott's and Rifkin's argument, but presenting only this short roster of undisputed facts?

Chris Rowson wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"But now we have evidence from two independent sources: Gesner, with whom Bach had to work together closely during the time when Gesner was the Rector of the Thomasschule and Trömer who gives an independent report on the performance of a cantata in which all 40 musicians participated. . "
I don´t think Trömer´s description of a nameday cantata for the Elector tells us anything about the church cantatas.

These civic things appear to have been well funded, so Bach could hire in big forces to please the Elector, and the ones I have read about had a substantial outdoor component. Remember the one for the next Elector in 1735, also with lots of torches?

Terence wrote (February 3, 2007):
Thank you for the interesting debate on the size of the choirs. So much is unknowable, but what we DO know is this: whatever the size of the choir, there were no women's voices in them. Paul McCreesh and Rifkin and Parrott can go on all they want about authenticity, but by cutting down the size of the choir and using adult women's voices, like Argenta and Kirkby and the like, they've only created a solipsism of another sort, that is as far from Bach's world as Scherchen is.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Terence] The use of adult women sopranos straight-out-of-thfreezer and adult English-style counter-tenors brings us no closer to the sound of Bach's choir. The only advantage of these specialty voices is that they sing with an agility and vibrato-less tone which does not mask the clarity of Bach's vocal writing with bel canto technique. They also show much greater attention to articulation and ornamentation than conventionally-trained singers.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The problem we face here is almost insuperable. There are only single parts for four singers in most cantatas, so it looks like OVPP is the only reasonable interpretation.<<
Reasonable only if you assume that only one or two singers at the most could share a part. Once you assume with Rifkin and others that this stricture must apply, then there is no other possible solution than to accept Rifkin's theory. However, when taking Bach's stated groupings literally (3 on each part is the minimum requirement in the Entwurff) and considering as well Bach's ideal number of 4 singers to a part (all in Bach's handwriting in the Entwurff) and then viewing the Groschuff print, as imperfect as it is as not being a photographic reproduction of reality, with its several groups of 3 singers huddled together in various places, then the more reasonable assumption is that the number of singers per part under Bach's direction in Leipzig would have averaged between 3 to 4 singers per part depending upon varying circumstances.

DC: >>Multiple singers on single parts is a practical problem. Two singers per part works, three singers is a real stretch; four singers is impossible.<<
Not at all when you place smaller singers in front of the taller ones. In any age group there will be some that are taller than the others. These would have to look over the shoulders of the others.

DC: >>If Bach normally used OVPP "choirs" or octets, then we shouldn't worry about singers not performing.<<
But there would be periods during the church service when one half of the Primary Choir would not be involved in singing at all. Imagine the trumpets and timpani with the full orchestra and organ playing a festive cantata and only one half of the Primary Choir would be allowed to perform because Bach was following a procedure or method which forced him to schedule rehearsal times for various ensembles with different repertoires the same way modern church groups do! This is the reason why sight-singing was considered a very important part of musical training for the Thomaner.

DC: >>Attendance at the 3-4 hour Sunday service was viewed primarily as a religious exercise, so musical inactivity would never have been viewed as idleness.<<
The primary purpose for St. Thomas School was to provide singers for both St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Churches in Leipzig. Do you seriously think that the Rector of St. Thomas School and the Superintendent of all religious education in Leipzig (Deyling, for a number of years) as well as any of the city council members whose power and influence in these matters were greater than Bach's would tolerate having only half of the Primary Choir singing at any point during the church services when choir singing was expected? Also, aside from the occasional indications in the scores for concertists vs. ripieni, Bach, nor any of the independent reports (Gesner & Trömer) make note of such a planned RIF (Reduction in Force) resulting in a good portion of the Primary Choir not singing at all when it was expected (in the figural music). Imagine the city council members discussing the Entwurff: "Did you notice that sly and crafty Bach is trying to pull the wool over our eyes by having only one half of the choir sing at any time so that it might appear that the need for singers is greater now than it ever had been in the past?"

DC: >>Has anyone compiled the number of singers in the choirs which are used in the various top ensembles Suzuki, Leusing, Harnncourt, Kopman)?<<
Harnoncourt, for instance, in my edition does not list the number of singers in the choir. He only indicates their origin. The impression I received from listening carefully, for instance to the Wiener Sängerknaben (the Vienna Boys' Choir) is that the number of singers per part (soprano, alto only) was at least 4 or 5 per part while the supplemental tenors and basses (from a different choir) sounded at times like two voices at most. This began to sound rather lop-sided with an almost OVPP sound in the lower voices and a typical boys' choir sound in the upper voices. In any case, I do not believe that we can learn much from these modern ensembles unless they use only boys (and young men in their early 20s) with an equal distribution of singers per part. Perhaps some of the Thomaner recordings would reveal this information more precisely?

 

Continue on Part 7

Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
One-Voice-Per-Part (OVPP):
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21
Articles:
Bach’s Choir and Orchestra [T. Koopman] | Evidence for the Size of Bach’s Primary Choir [T. Braatz]
Books on OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [A. Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [J. Rifkin]: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýDecember 6, 2009 ý23:11:53