The Bach Family in Eisenach

(Elisabeth Bach, mother of Johann Sebastian Bach, recounts his first 10 years.)

I want to tell you an amazing story: the story of my son, Johann Sebastian Bach. This is the story of a precocious talented little boy whose name was to become known throughout the world centuries later.

Birthplace of JS Bach – Eisenach, Germany

My precious boy was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, Germany to my husband, Ambrosious and me, Elisabeth Bach. We are quite a family, we Bachs. The name Bach is nearly synonymous with the word musician around this part of the world.

The story goes that my husband’s great grandfather, Vitus, taught himself to play the lute to while away the time at his mill while corn was being ground for use in his bakery. Well, his love for his lute and music was so great that he taught his sons to not only bake bread, but more importantly, to also play wind instruments. His son Johannes got so good as a stadtpfeifer (city wind instrument player) that eventually he gave up baking and devoted himself to music-making.

Ambrosius Bach
Father of JS Bach

After that, right through the next generation and down to my husband, the Bachs have been and are musicians. In fact, my husband is very well known in Eisenach. You see he is not only a town musician but a court musician as well! He often plays his violin for our Duke and his guests at the castle. I am so proud of him!

Ambrosious and I have decided that our children must study music and follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. After all, there is no better way to make a living here in Germany than to make music. So, that is why we have made sure that all of our children are studying music.

Our youngest boy, Johann Sebastian, is already studying the violin and viola with Ambrosious. Ambrosious is planning to find a way to get our young son into the court orchestra as soon as possible. Our children are so talented. In fact, Johann Cristoph, our oldest, is now an organist and teacher in Ohrdruf where he has just married a wonderful girl.

(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 bachandsons.org to discover more.)

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Johann Sebastian Bach An Orphan At Age Ten

(Maria Salome, sister of Johann Sebastian Bach, continues the story of Johann’s early years.)

You see, it has been nine months since our mother, Elisabeth, suddenly died and so much has changed! Our lives have been in turmoil since then.

As the eldest child and only daughter of the Ambrosious Bach family, I loved helping my mother with all the things around the house. But suddenly with mama’s death, I was left to care for my two little brothers.

Latienschule
Eisenach, Germany

Johann Sebastian was just ten when mama died and he misses her so much. He and Jakob are good though and are still practicing their violin and viola, and they both returned to the Latienschule a few months ago.

Papa was very sad, but after seeing the widow Kaul every Sunday for several months, he finally married her. Her name is Barbara Margarethe. She helped make our home happy again. We had a wonderful Christmas and Epiphany then one day, just a few short months after Papa married again, he came home from the court very ill. A few days later he died too. It was awful!

Now life has changed again. Our step-mother is now a widow for the third time, but this time she has the three of us to feed. She asked for help from the town council and they have given her enough money to feed only two of us. She has decided she must send my brothers, Johann and Jakob away.

Johann Sebastian and Johann Jakob Bach walk to Ohrdruf, Germany

My brothers have been told they will walk the thirty miles to our older brother Christoph’s home in Ohrdruf. I will miss them so much, but I know Christoph and his family will take good care of our brothers. So much death around my little brothers is not good. It is something that I know will stay with Johann and Jakob forever.

(This story is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, created by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and David Jordan, media artist.  Visit bachandsons.org to discover more.)