How Did A Sister-in-law Influence The Music Of JS Bach?

(Christoph Bach’s wife tells of taking Johann Sebastian Bach into their home.)

I am happy to have these two foundlings, Johann Sebastian and Jakob Bach in our home. It gives my husband, Christoph, a chance to get to know his little brothers and teach them how to play the clavier. The boys have settled into life here with us here in Ohrdruf since the sudden death of their parents, Elisabeth and Ambrosious, a few months ago. Thankfully, Johann Sebastian is able to help support our family with his beautiful voice. He sings for all sorts of occasions around Ohrdruf.

Sebastian is also really interested in Christoph’s collection of music scores and is always asking to see the books of music Herr Johannes Pachelbel gave to Christoph. In fact, the other night I caught Johann Sebastian copying by moonlight some of that organ music Christoph had expressly forbidden him to use. I know he is going to ruin his eyesight staring at that music in the near darkness.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)


Johann Sebastian Walks to Luneburg

(Christoph Bach’s wife continues the saga of Johann Sebastian Bach and his move to Luneburg, Germany.)

After five years, having Johann still living with us has started to become a problem. You see, our little home is getting a bit too crowded with our first two babies now walking and our third on the way. I think Christoph and I are going to have to send Johann Sebastian away. We just do not have room anymore and with one less 15-year-old-mouth to feed, it will make life a bit more manageable for us. We think it is time Johann Sebastian learns to live on his own.

Luneberg, Germany

Herr Herder, the schoolmaster here in Ohrdruf, has suggested that Sebastian and his friend Georg Erdmann go together to Luneburg to sing and study at St. Michael’s School. In fact, he is sure the boys can get scholarships because they are such fine singers and musicians. The only problem is that Luneburg is so far away, nearly 200 miles, and they would have to walk. We will see what plans can be made.

We just got word that J.S. is doing wonderfully in Luneburg. He loves all the music at the church and he is doing well at school as usual. He tells us there is an incredible music library with over 1700 titles by 175 different composers in Luneburg. My husband would really love to get to Luneburg to see this music, but he is so busy here.

Johann S. Bach is also doing well financially. He has the scholarship of course, but he is also earning a living as a singer at weddings and funerals and we hear he is even performing as a street musician. We were told that Johann Sebastian has also made the acquaintance of some famous organists who play in and around Luneburg, a Herr Bohm and a Herr Reinken. I think Johann took some of the music he composed while he lived with us to Luneburg and it would not surprise me if he played one of those pieces for those great masters. I hope he will play his arrangement of “Von Himmel Hoch.”

(This story and the images are from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.  Visit to discover more.)

How Did A Princess Influence The Style of JS Bach?

(Eleonore d’Esmier, Duchess of Wilhemsburg, French born wife of the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg-Celle tells of the Court’s influence on the young Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical development.)

My husband is George Wilhelm, the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg. I recently married this great man and I now make my home here in Germany. You see, I am originally from France. In fact, I hail from the most famous of all courts in France, the court of Louis XIV. This is not only one of the most magnificent of courts in all Europe, but it is the court that all lesser courts seek to copy. All over Germany, counts, dukes, and other nobles are trying to recreate the lifestyle and grandeur of the Sun King’s Court.

With that goal in mind, my husband has decided we will create our own little French court in Celle, just south of Luneburg. Since I am French, however, we have a great advantage over other courts trying to become the Versailles of Germany because I really know what the Sun King’s court is like. Therefore, we speak French at the court of Celle and we have even hired an orchestra of French musicians to make music for us. We also play the great keyboard music by all the best and most fashionable French keyboard composers like Couperin and de Grigny. My generous husband has created such a lovely French court that I feel like I am “at home.”

Celle Castle

Quite often, students from Luneburg make the trip to Celle to hear our French music and take in our French culture here in this more heathen part of northern Germany. The other day, I met one incredibly talented young man, a Herr Johann Sebastian Bach. He was so enamored with our “French culture” that he has been copying the music of our great keyboard masters like mad. Why I hear he has even composed an organ piece after one of Francois Couperin’s harpsichord pieces. He calls it “Air” and it is really quite charming although quite difficult for the organists to play.

I overheard this young composer tell his friend, our music director Thomas de la Salle, that he was leaving St. Michaels in Luneburg to pursue his musical career. He is so young, only 17 I believe, but I guess that is all the schooling this young man named Johann Sebastian Bach needs. His incredible talent certainly proves that.

(This story and the images are from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.  Visit to discover more.)

Who Were Barbara Katharina and Maria Barbara Bach?

(Barbara Katharina Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s second cousin and elder sister of Maria Barbara Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s future wife)

Maria Barbara, did you hear who is coming to town? It is Johann Sebastian, our dear cousin Ambrosius’ son. He has been away from Eisenach so long I am not sure I would recognize him. When his parents died he was sent to live with his brother Christoph in Ohrdruf for a few years, then I believe he was sent all the way to Luneburg for school. Lately, though I heard that Johann Sebastian had been playing the violin for the Duke’s court in Weimar.

Now, Johann Sebastian has just been appointed the organist at the Neukirche right here in Arnstadt where that incredible new organ was just built! I was told that the concert Johann Sebastian gave when he came to try out the new organ was simply astounding and the committee just had to appoint him organist! I think I also heard, though, that he has to conduct the boy choir at the Neukirche. I wonder if he knows about that? I really do hope Johan Sebastian is up to the task of working with those ornery boys at the school. They sing so badly and can just be so awful!

However, the best news of all is that Sebastian is coming to visit his relatives next week when he gets to Arnstadt. That means us! We will be seeing our dear cousin Johann Sebastian very soon. You know he will be living at the Mayor’s house, don’t you? I can hardly wait to see him again!

Maria Barbara, have you heard? Johann Sebastian was just in a fight. I happened to be walking down the street near the Neukirche when this brawl erupted and that awful bassoonist Gegenbach

The Bassoonist

and our dear JS had come to blows. I think our cousin Johann got the best of that little bassoon player, though, as Johann drew his sword and just cut to tatters Gegenbach’s clothing! I was there! I saw it! And more than that, I am going to testify to the city authorities that the fight was not Johann Sebastian’s fault! Poor Johann Sebastian is just so bothered by those awful no-count untalented boys at that school. It is too bad he can’t just compose his beautiful organ music and be left alone.

The organ music dear Johann is composing now is so interesting. He tells me a wonderful composer named Georg Bohm that he met while he lived in Luneburg influenced him greatly. He just loves to compose variations on our wonderful hymns. Why sometimes just to be different, he puts the melody in the pedal in many of the pieces he is composing right now. He really is a genius, that cousin of mine.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

JS Bach Is Off To Lubeck

(Barbara Katherina, second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach and elder sister of Maria Barbara, Bach’s future wife, recounts the story of JS Bach walking to Luebeck.)

Dietrich Buxtehude

My dear sister, Maria Barbara, have you heard the news? Our Johann Sebastian has just gotten permission to go to Lubeck to hear the celebrated organist, Dietrich Buxtehude at St. Mary’s. He has been talking about this trip for so long and now the city council has given him four weeks right during Advent to go to Lubeck. Of course, he has asked our cousin, Johann Ernst to substitute for him here at the Neukirche, so the music there will go on as usual. JS tells me he is going to walk the 200 miles to hear the great Buxtehude and his Advent Abendmusik concerts.

Finally, just when I had nearly given up hope and had started thinking the rumor was true that Johann was going to marry Herr Buxtehude’s old daughter, Anna Margareta, so he could get the organist position at Lubeck, he has returned. Did you realize he had been gone sixteen long weeks from his position at the Neukirche? Let me tell you, the authorities knew just how long Johann Sebastian had been gone and they are mad. They have argued and argued with JS but he is not apologizing for his behavior and the length of his absence. And really why should he, our cousin Johann Ernst filled in quite nicely at the Neukirche while he was gone.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

A Woman Singing In The Choir Loft To JS Bach’s Accompaniment

(Barbara Katharina Bach, JS Bach’s second cousin and Maria Barabara Bach’s sister, is horrified at the music Johann Sebastian is playing in church and that he has accompanied Maria Barbara’s singing in the church choir loft.)

Maria Barbara were you in church yesterday? Did you hear what our Johann Sebastian¬† played? I think it was an organ piece with our favorite chorale “How Brightly Shines the Morningstar” hidden in all those different sounding sections somewhere. Our staid old congregation really did not like it did they? I think our JS learned a lot from Herr Buxtehude and Herr Scheidt while he was in Lubeck don’t you?

Then to make matters worse, did you hear the hymn accompaniment he played on LOBT GOTT, IHR CHRISTEN? Heavens, it was hard to sing that hymn with that wild accompaniment, if I say so myself. Why I heard people complaining all around us. They truly were confused. Some even said they could not hear the melody. I imagine all that new-fangled ornamentation, is not going to sit well with all those serious faced men.

The Bach Organ in Arnstadt, Germany

Maria Barbara, please tell me you were not the woman someone heard singing to Johann Sebastian’s accompaniment in the church choir loft the other day? If it was you, you are in so much trouble! First, you-a woman actually in the choir loft and second, horror of horrors, you were even heard singing in the choir loft! Just think of the mess you have created now for our dear Johann Sebastian, and just when things were starting to settle down a bit. What were you thinking?

Oh, so you have heard he is looking for another job? And, why would our Johann need a different job? So he can finally settle down and what? Marry you, Maria Barbara? Is that what you are thinking, my dear little sister?

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

Maria Barbara and Johann Sebastian – Happily Ever After

(Maria Barbara Bach, JS Bach’s second cousin and first wife, encourages Johann Sebastian apply for a new job and ask for her hand in marriage.)

With the many challenges for Johann Sebastian in Arnstadt, I decided to talk with my relative Johann Bellstedt in Muhlhausen. I told him Johann was very unhappy and was looking for a new position as a church organist.

Upon learning this news, Herr Bellstedt, immediately asked Johann to come try out the new organ at St. Blaise’s in Muhlhausen-on Easter Sunday no less! Well, of course everyone was very impressed with Johann’s virtuosity and the board decided on the spot that my JS was the man for the organist position.

It is so exciting. Now, with this new position and its great salary of 85 gulden and a promise of 54 bushels of grain, two cords of wood and six bundles of brushwood, my Johann tells me we can get married and that we will immediately move to Muhlhausen to start our new life together.

The Bach Wedding Church
Dornheim, Germany

We got married on October 17, 1707. It was a lovely affair starting in Arnstadt and continuing in Dornheim four miles away. We had such a grand time walking with all our family and friends to the little village church in Dornheim where a friend of the family married us.

After our celebration, we immediately moved to Muhlhausen where Johann had already begun his work several months earlier. I will now be with Johann to support him, provide a home for him, and to encourage him in all his musical efforts.

Oil and Water = Bach and Muhlhausen

(The year in Muehlhausen as told by Maria Barbara Bach, JS Bach’s first wife.)

Things are definitely looking up in Muhlhausen. Students have started coming to Johann Sebastian asking for lessons. If you are a genius, it is a gift to be taught by Johann Sebastian Bach. If not…well things can be a little tough.

However, now that we are settled in Muhlhausen, we are finding that the congregation at St. Blaise’s is basically Pietist. We now know that Pietists believe in extreme simplicity – simplicity in everything including their music. I am told they are afraid of the excessive use of music and art in worship, with its temptations to worldliness. Some church people even wanted a complete ban on instrumental music in the service. This was not good, because what my Johann plays for them is his wonderful but complex contrapuntal music.

I have begun to wonder if St. Blaise’s in Muhlhausen is such a good place for us or not. What were they thinking when they hired my Johann Sebastian Bach?

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

The Bachs Are Off to Weimar

(Maria Barbara, Johann Sebastian Bach’s first wife, shares the news that they are leaving Muhlhausen and moving to Weimar.)

St. Blaise
Muhlhausen, Germany

Glorious news! Johann Sebastian has just returned home and he tells me the interview went superbly and that he was immediately hired as Kapellemeister and chamber musician at the court of his majesty, Duke Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar. Tomorrow he will resign his position at St. Blaise’s in Muhlhausen and we will move to Weimar.

Ah, Weimar! Life is so different here. It is like another world. Johann has a wonderful salary and besides that, some men showed up with grain and wood and wine at our front door the other day. This is the way we now live here in Weimar.

Weimar, Germany

Johann Sebastian has started his new job and he is so happy. The Duke does not tolerate the religious rancor that had marked our time at Muhlhausen and he told JS he would be free to develop his ideas on “well-regulated church music” at Weimar. It is such a blessing to have Johann Sebastian happy and engaged in his music, playing his violin, but also composing, composing and composing!

We also have a new baby, our first. We named her Catharina Dorothea and she is a healthy beautiful baby. Ah, our lives are so full and happy here in Weimar.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

More Children for the JS Bach Family

My husband, Johann, recently heard the music of some Italian composers and he was most impressed. In fact, just the other day he played for Dorothea and me, a piece he arranged for his “King of Instruments” (that’s the organ, you know) which he cleverly based on a violin concerto by a Mr. Vivaldi. It is amazing how he was able to play all the parts of the orchestra and the part of the violin soloist on the organ by himself!

Our little family continues to grow. Dorothea is now 2 years old, and we have a new baby we have named Wilhelm Friedemann. You do remember our Duke’s name is Wilhelm don’t you? Their father is wonderful with them when he has time. Johann Sebastian is so busy with all his activities from tuning harpsichords, repairing and maintaining organs, playing his violin in the Duke’s orchestra, and of course composing, a lot of which is for the organ right now.

Our twins, Johann Christoph and Maria Sophia, were born this year, but alas, they were so tiny and sickly, they did not survive more than a day. I was heartbroken of course and Johann Sebastian was especially sad. He has already had too much death in his life.

Even through this tragedy, Johann Sebastian has continued with all his work and has even continued to compose. He composes his glorious music not just as an employee of the Duke but to the glory of God! Always to the glory of God.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)