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For Us a Child is Born; Bach Cantata 142

posted Dec 10, 2017, 10:18 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 10, 2017, 10:18 AM ]
This Friday, December 15
th, at 7:30 in the evening, the Diocesan Choir, Celestial Voices and Chamber Orchestra present “A Celebration of the Nativity” at Resurrection-Ascension Church in Rego Park. I’m singing with them, and in addition to many carols, we’ll be performing the Christmas cantata Uns ist ein Kind geboren (Unto us a child is born), BWV 142.


A cantata is a vocal composition usually with soloists, choir and orchestra, typically in several movements. While Bach was working at St. Thomas in Leipzig, he started a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year. Most Bach scholars don't believe he composed this particular cantata, although the identity of the actual composer has not been established. It's considered plausible that his predecessor may have composed this one to complete an unfinished cycle, since a cantata with this title is listed as having been performed in both of the main churches in Leipzig—the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche–on Christmas Day, 1720, though Bach was no longer working there at this time, and there's no record of this cantata being performed before then.

The libretto's text was written by a German Lutheran pastor and first published in 1711. While it’s opening text is “Unto us a child is born”, it’s final chorale translates as:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Praised be God, 
Let us sing from the depths of our heart, 
For God has wrought such joy today, 
That at no time should we ever forget it.