Title: Johann Sebastian Bach
Author: Mike Venezia
Illustrator: Mike Venezia
Publisher: Children’s Press
Publication Date: 1996
Audience: 1st Grade and up
Summary: Johann Sebastian Bach was born into a musical family in Germany in 1685. There were so many Bachs who were musicians that in Germany the words were virtually synonymous. When the Bach family had a reunion it was almost an orchestra and a choir. Bach’s father, who was a town musician, taught his son to play the violin. Sadly Sebastian (the name by which he was usually called) lost both of his parents within a year when he was nine so he went to live with his older brother, Christoph, who was a church organist. He taught Sebastian to play the harpsichord and the organ. One of the main ways Sebastian earned a living throughout his life was through tuning and repairing organs. At 15 Sebastian left his brother and traveled to go to school where he sang in a church choir. From then until his death Bach sought the best musical jobs that he could find and these were usually in churches. Bach was a Lutheran, a devout Christian who wrote his music for the glory of God. He wrote a new piece of music, frequently a cantata, for almost every worship service. Bach was married first to a distant cousin, Maria. After her death he married Anna Magdalena. Altogether Bach had 20 children and four of his sons became famous musicians. Some of his music was written for his children to play. Bach’s life was often difficult because he had to please so many bosses and because he had so little money. Bach was sometimes a difficult employee but he was faithful to God through his music and is recognized today as one of the world’s greatest composers.
Literary elements at work in the story: This book contains an amazing amount of information in a brief amount of text-about Bach and his life, about baroque music and the culture that produced it, about the music that Bach composed. Illustrations and portraits bring Bach and his family to life; cartoons add humor and commentary. This is one volume in the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers Series. Peruse other volumes to find musicians who praised God.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Not applicable
Theological Conversation Partners: Praising God is our purpose in life. Or, as our catechism says, “our chief purpose is glorify God and enjoy God forever.” This was the source of Bach’s music that has enabled Christians to praise God through the years. Bach wrote SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) at the end of all his church compositions. This brief biography opens the question of what it means to praise God, an examination of the call to praise God, and the use of our gifts to praise God. The last 5 Psalms could be a place to start. In Col 3:16, Paul encourages us to sing with thankful hearts. Singing our faith is a central activity in worship. This could be an occasion to examine the place of music in worship. You will find Bach’s name in the author’s index of most hymnbooks. Even 1st graders can learn to recognize Bach’s name and see it in the index. Paul’s familiar passage on spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-11) are a clear statement of the stewardship of gifts that Bach practiced so admirably. Many of the hymns associated with Bach’s name were originally German chorales that he harmonized and used in his larger works. Ex. “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”
Faith Talk Questions:
- What gifts do you think God gave to Bach to use for God’s glory?
- Do you think Bach used these gifts well? Give some examples.
- Why was music so important in the Lutheran church in Germany?
- Look at your church’s order of worship. How many times is music used?
- If you have a church organist or pianist, ask him/her to play a piece by Bach.
- Look in the authors’ index in your church’s hymnal and find Bach’s name. How many do you find?
- Bach was a gifted musician from a family of gifted musicians. Do you think he had to work hard to write and play his music?
- Are there ways to praise God other than music?
This is the fifth review written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas in a series about biographies for children and youth.
Johann Sebastian Bach by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.