‘Town & Gown’ series focuses on Bach’s motivations in music

Town and Gown
Town and Gown
Joshua Veltman is shown above. James Patterson, university professor of Christian thought and tradition and acting dean of the school of theology and missions, and Veltman, associate professor of music history and literature, speak as a part of the Bach as Theologian in his Sacred Cantatas Town and Gown lecture series March 25 in Providence Hall. | Photo by Anne Richoux

The theme for this semester’s Town and Gown lecture series in Providence Hall has been “Bach as Theologian in his Sacred Cantatas.”

The last of five sessions will take place at 7 p.m. April 15.

The four speakers have included Joshua Veltman, associate professor of Music History and Literature; James Patterson, professor of Christian Thought and Tradition and acting dean of the School of Theology and Missions; Calvin Stapert, professor Emeritus of Music at Calvin College and author of the course text, “My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance and Discipleship in the Music of Bach” and Stanley Warren, professor of music.

“I chose this topic first of all because I admire and appreciate the music of Bach, and I knew this topic could sustain my interest and provide ample opportunities for significant learning for the students” said Veltman. “His cantatas are not only excellent musically, they are also theologically profound and spiritually edifying.”

Bach was a devout Lutheran whose faith played an intricate role in everything he did. Bach inscribed all his compositions with the phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” which means, “to God alone be the glory.”

“Bach, through his life and work, provides us all with a good example of breaking down the barriers between so-called sacred and secular pursuits,” said Veltman. “He helps us see that all aspects of our lives should be devoted to glorifying God.”

Stapert wrote the book on how Bach’s theology shaped his music, and it is being used as the main text for this series.

Warren, who also teaches in Union’s Department of Music, is an experienced and talented vocalist who has sung the repertoire, which students will continue to study in this series.

His presentation includes a live performance of music by Bach and provides the perspective of a performer for students.

Patterson lectured March 25 on “Bach’s Germany: Luther and the Reformation,” providing the context and background for Bach’s work.

“As a church historian, I am deeply interested in our Christian heritage, and I especially enjoy reading and teaching the Protestant Reformation because of its impact on so many denominational traditions, including the Baptists,” said Patterson. “The major theological emphases of the Reformation still figure prominently in evangelical preaching today.”

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