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FAQ for A Bach Chorale Hymnbook

Why four-voice scores?

Two reasons: easier for singers to follow their own lines, and to highlight Bach’s
matchless counterpoint. Keyboard reductions of chorales are readily available in a variety of modern (usually textless) editions.

Why are both languages in the score?

The English translation and the original German text are printed side by side both in the score and in the list of stanzas beneath the score so that they can be easily compared. Putting each language under each voice part in the score would make the scores far too dense and the hymnbook unwieldy.

Where can I hear these chorales?

Click here to go to the Bach Hymnbook’s YouTube channel. The chorales launched in alphabetical order, one per weekday, beginning on Bach’s birthday in 2023. Each one is performed by Rebecca Davy, Music Director and Organist of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, a building built in Bach’s lifetime.

Where can I buy the scores? Publication is a work in progress. For now, the scores for each individual chorale are available on this site [see Home Page, circle with ‘SEE chorales’], added as each video is launched.

Why only 300 chorales——why not 371 (or 389, or 417, or….)

Depending on how you count, there are around 400 chorales harmonized by Bach, but many of them are alternate harmonizations of the same melody. The Bach Hymnbook includes every chorale text Bach arranged, but in just one harmonization per text.

How many stanzas in this collection? 

About a thousand stanzas, on average three per chorale. 

Why not all the stanzas of every chorale? Because that would include 2,500 stanzas; some chorales have over 30 stanzas. But all stanzas that Bach actually used are included, along with the first and final stanzas (or sometimes, in the case of doxologies, the penultimate stanza).

Why write new translations?

Because the original German is very plain and simple but the English translations currently in use are florid and complex, as was prized in the Victorian era in which they were written. The Bach Hymnbook attempts to provide translations about a century and a half more current, and closer to the content and spirit of the German originals.

Who wrote the translations?

The translator is credited at the bottom of each chorale score. Ninety percent of the translations in this collection are by the Bach Hymnbook’s editor, music historian Ruth van Baak Griffioen (PhD, Stanford 1988, professional translator of Dutch and German). The other 10 percent
are by a handful of other translators, mostly from the 19th century.

May I use these translations?

Yes. We ask only that you credit the translator and the source (The Bach Hymnbook, or

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