Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.
Today’s question comes from KUSC listener Lindsay Holland who would like to know why so many members of the Bach family pursued music.
Hit play below to listen to this week’s Chapman Challenge on KUSC Out and About.
The simple answer is: It was the family business. Members of the Bach family were expected to pursue a musical career and the training for it started in childhood. This training usually came from another member of the family: father, brother, uncle, cousin. Johann Sebastian Bach taught his own sons plus six other relatives.
If you consult Grove’s Dictionary of Music, a standard reference source, you’ll find that they’ve included some six dozen members of the Bach family and this big family stuck together not only for musical reasons, but because of their common social position, which was low.
Family gatherings were held regularly. One such gathering is described by an early biographer of Bach. He says: “Since the company consisted of nothing but musicians connected to the church…they would first sing a chorale. From this devotional opening they proceeded to jesting, often in strong contrast to it. For now they would sing folksongs, the contents of which were partly comic and partly indelicate…They enjoyed a hearty laugh at it.”