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Economic and Social History Blog

11. A year without the Mattheus (29-3-2020)

A year without the Mattheus (29-3-2020)

Written by: Jan Luiten van Zanden

It will be a year without the Mattheus (or St. Matthews) Passion, without going to one of the performances, and without taking part in one.

Bach Matthäus Passion, “Oh Haupt voll Blut, und Wunden”

Other things I miss even more, but no Mattheus is also a big blow. When some 8 years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s I wondered if I had a bucket list and what was on it. And yes, I found out that it consisted of one thing only: singing the Mattheus as member of a choir. I had enjoyed Bach’s music all my life, but never tried to sing in a choir, so this was the moment to try this. I took singing lessons, joined the Bachcantates (who perform a cantate every month) to get some practice, and after some time joined a decent choir – one of the many in Utrecht – that performed the Mattheus. I discovered that I could do this, and that it was not only fun, but at times a deep emotional experience. As a real junky I have been singing in different choirs since, not only performing Bach’s incredible music – including Johannes Passion and Hohe Messe – but also Verdi, Faure, Schütz, Mozart, Handel, Mendelssohn. My teacher made me sing Schubert (at a basic level, of course), and together with Josine, Keetie, Jessica, Bram and Gerard we started the esgo ensemble, well known for its contributions to parties and anniversaries. So I added a new dimension to life – Mr P (short for Parkinson’s) brought me closer to Bach.

And that is what I miss these days. It does not make a lot of sense to practice at home as it is unclear when the next performance will be. I have tried to deal with the current setback in a similar way; by forcing myself to write a daily blog, I hope to cope with the dramatic loss of agency corona is causing. It really structures my life to sit down at my desk every morning, with a plan for a new blog, and write it down. It is nice to have you as my captive audience – I can write whatever I like as we are among friends. And so I will survive even a year without the Mattheus.

Continue reading: The group portrait as an institution (30-3-2020)