Hymn No 7 (Second Tune) from the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal, aka “Wake, Awake!”, arranged for Soprano and Bass Clarinets.

Philipp Nicolai, 1556-1608
Adapted and harm. by J.S. Bach, 1685-1750

Yes, THAT J.S. Bach! He actually liked this hymn’s skeleton enough that he hung a whole Cantata on it (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140)!

“Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us), BWV 140, also known as Sleepers Wake, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, regarded as one of his most mature and popular sacred cantatas. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 25 November 1731.”

Here’s the pdf of my arrangement: 007b.ServiceBookAndHymnal

My wife was reading the lyrics I had posted with the previous version of the hymn, (007.ServiceBookAndHymnal) and said, “This sounds scary! What is it about?”

I have to say, I hadn’t given it much thought, as I am pretty shallow. To me it was more about the idea that during different parts of our lives we are often “asleep” and it takes some thought, or an event, to “wake” us out of the slumber of everyday events.

Philipp Nicolai lived in Germany during the Plague years. He had seen friends and colleagues fall victim to it. It was a pretty terrible time to be alive. It probably seemed to him like the end of the world wasn’t too far off.

The Hymn references several things, first what is called, “The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins“, which comes from the New Testament of the Christian Bible, (Matthew 25:1–13,) which is usually interpreted to be about being prepared for Christ’s return to earth. It also references some scary bits from the book of Revelation. My favorite line, (“eye hath not seen, nor ear heard”,) comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:9), which, ostensibly is about the amazing stuff that the true believer will see in Heaven, but to me is more about how art, including music, can transcend our ordinary lives.

For this one, with all of J.S. Bach’s eighth notes and syncopation, I kept the overdubbing down to 2 soprano and 2 bass clarinets. It’s actually a pretty challenging piece, by hymn standards.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal