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Image of Photo of Joanna Ward

Student premieres Bach-inspired music

A composition by third-year music student Joanna Ward (2016), commissioned as part of an international Bach project, will premiere in Cambridge on 3 February.

Der du bist Drei in Einigkeit will be played at the 6pm Choral Evensong service in the Jesus College Chapel. The piece is part of the Orgelbüchlein Project, which aims to complete J S Bach’s unfinished Orgelbüchlein or Little Organ Book.

Held in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, the Orgelbüchlein contains short chorale preludes for organ. Meant to be a compendium of chorales for the entire Church year, Bach wrote out titles for 164 pieces but completed only 46. The Orgelbüchlein Project is working with composers around the world to write the remaining 118.

Joanna says: “I was approached to be involved over a year ago now by project curator William Whitehead after Richard Pinel, Director of Music here at Jesus, recommended that he got in touch with me. I'm very grateful as it's such an interesting project: using Bach’s original chorale melodies as a framework, manipulating them how you please.

“William emphasised that I had creative freedom within the framework of the project, and that it was not by any means a pastiche exercise, and I think that’s a very refreshing approach to this über-canonised repertoire. Curiously, it also fits well with my usual approach to composition which is often un-explicitly referential, manipulating others’ music with varying degrees of abstraction.

“I believe that I was one of the last composers to contribute to the project, assigned the chorale Der du bist drei in Einigkeit (BWV 293). It's a chorale for Trinity, and so I had one-in-three as a kind of riddle-starting-point in thinking about the material. The final piece reflects my usual musical aesthetic whilst also fitting well with the mood of the original chorale, retaining the three-fold repetition of the motif in its original key and register, as a nod to Bach’s original conception of the Trinity.

“I am amazed really to be joining the impressive and diverse list of composers who have written pieces already, including Errollyn Wallen, Thea Musgrave, Louis Andriessen, Catherine Kontz,and  Judith Bingham to name a few - all composers I look up to immensely. It's especially cool to see myself listed right next to Soosan Lolavar, a fascinating composer, as we both wrote pieces based on the same chorale!

“I’d like to thank William, Richard, and also Jason our Junior Organ Scholar, who is giving the piece its premiere!”

Regular College Chapel services are open to all. Find more details in our Chapel termcards and music lists.

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