Bach's St. Matthew Passion & Gail

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In May or June 1986, I made it onto the local Portland, Oregon news broadcasts.  A news commentator placed a microphone to my mouth to interview me.  My interview was broadcast in the evening news, so that when I went to church the next Sunday, many at the huge church I attended in Gladstone, Oregon commented that I was a celebrity.  I wore a rust-colored, smooth velvet overcoat, with my natural brunette hair in layers.  Because it snowed that day (somewhat unusual for this time of the year in Portland), snow was on the ground.

In 1985 and 1986, I knew the Bible well and gained no new insights into the Scriptures from the preacher of the Portland, Oregon church I attended.  I longed for another church where I could grow as a Christian and have a deeper walk with Christ.

I did not want to be emotionally manipulated by a power hungry preacher, but wanted to grow into a solid, Bible believing Christian. I especially did not like the rock music played during church services, as I felt the music lacked reverence and that the church’s spirit was shallow and show-business-like rather than like the Spirit of Christ. (Note: In 2012 Jesus showed me that rock music is not sinful. However, I believe He would agree with me that a church should not be shallow and businesslike. The preacher at this church conducted services like a sales campaign, with Sunday School teachers posting their numbers for attendance every Sunday night on a huge screen, and did not allow Jesus to be Lord over the services. Jesus probably thinks the St. Matthew Passion is cool music.)

To compensate for the shallow and irreverent music I heard in the church services at this Gladstone church, I recalled what I’d heard on a Christian radio station program from Moody Bible Institute (Stories of Great Christians) where I heard the story of Johann Sebastian Bach. I recalled that Bach (a devout Lutheran) considered his greatest masterpiece, his St. Matthew Passion in German.

So I decided to give myself some spiritual food through music, to make up for the irreverent music I endured at this church. I called several music stores in Portland, Oregon to find this St. Matthew Passion. Only one music store had it.

This music especially appealed to me because I knew it would emphasize the inner life as opposed to the shallow, clap-trap and hustling activities (and goal setting activities) of this church, where great numbers in church attendance was equated with spirituality, and where this Baptist church’s music, accompanied by drum beats and crass tympanies and clashes and bangs reflected the church’s irreverent commercialism and its hustle and bustle insanity.

I told people that music like the St. Matthew Passion pleased God, that God would much more prefer this music by Bach over the shallow clap-trap style music we heard at this church in Gladstone, Oregon.

Finally, I found one music store in Portland, Oregon that carried the St. Matthew Passion and I bought it (in the 33 1/3 record format) and listened to it over and over, so I could worship God in my own way with music that I saw fit for God, to compensate for the clamor I had to endure at the big, commercialistic Baptist church.

As I heard the music, I followed the German (by reading the English translation next to it). How my heart soared to the heavens in reverence and tears as I heard these words in German (in 1962) by the Philharmonia Choir and Philharmonia Orchestra (Otto Klemperer) with Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry. My soul felt a cleansing from the impurities I endured from that Baptist church in Gladstone, Oregon. I worshipped God in the church of my heart from my apartment (in the apartment complex called The Bluffs) in Milwaukie, Oregon.

I looked out my window and saw the Willamette River from my window, with the lush Pacific Northwest greenery and black ravens hawking and squawking, fluttering about the river’s banks’ greenery, bobbing their heads, cocking and sputtering among each other on the grass. I loved this music’s tranquility and flow; how it seemed to blend with the lush evergreens about my quaint, canary yellow apartments (with air’s purity and stillness hovering over each tree branch), and sun rays filtering through layers of stillness and air smelling of tranquility.

I preferred this church of my heart in my apartment, with the peaceful slopes of the Willamette at my doorsteps and the lush music of Bach, to what I was forced to endure–that Baptist church’s hustle and bustle insanity. The river’s cool, crisp air, whipping its freshness onto my face, lingered with purity and passions in my apartment, as I heard music and words stream to my heart.