The Bach Passions in Our Time

Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism

How should one respond when art is both beautiful and religiously intolerant? When it raises the spirits to a higher plane but uses scripture that degrades and rejects our religious neighbors? Written in 2005 by Tom Hall, Chris Leighton, and Michael Marissen as a companion piece to for Michael Marissen’s Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion (1998), The Bach Passions in Our Time: Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism tackles these difficult questions, asking readers to engage our sacred texts and art in a new light. The project was also relaized through a radio production, entitiled What to Do When the Words Hurt: Religious Intolerance in Western Culture.

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About the authors

Tom Hall has been the Music Director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society since 1982. He is also the host of Choral Arts Classics on WYPR Radio in Baltimore, and the Director of Choral Activities at Goucher College. In addition to a busy schedule of concerts each season in the U.S. and Europe, Dr. Hall lectures frequently to professional and community organizations, including the American Choral Directors Association, the College Endow­ment Association, and Chorus America. His publications include articles in the Baltimore Sun, Historical Performance Magazine, the Choral Journal, the American Choral Review, Style Magazine, and Voice Magazine. He has appeared frequently on XM Satellite Radio, Radio Suisse Romande, and on Baltimore public radio’s Face the Music, and the Marc Steiner Show. He has lectured and taught courses at the Peabody Conservatory, the University of Baltimore, Towson University, Syracuse University, and the Johns Hopkins University. He has also been an Artist in Residence at Indiana University and Temple University.

Christopher M. Leighton is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served as the Executive Director of the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies in Baltimore since its inception in 1987. Dr. Leighton is a graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary and Columbia University where he did his doctorate in Philoso­phy and Education. He has studied at the Baltimore Hebrew University, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. In addition to his work at the ICJS, he has been an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins University and the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary & University. After co-editing Talking About Genesis: A Resource Guide for the Bill Moyers series, he conducted a variety of educational programs which explored the challenges of reading and interpret­ing Genesis with public and independent high school students, individuals in retirement homes and a maximum security prison, as well as a diverse cross-section of churches and synagogues.

Michael Marissen studied music history at Calvin College and Brandeis University. He is Daniel Underhill Professor of Music at Swarthmore College and has guest taught at Oberlin College and Princeton University. His publications include The Social and Relig­ious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (Princeton, 1995), Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion (Oxford, 1998), and, with Daniel R. Melamed, An Introduction to Bach Studies (Oxford, 1998). His current projects include a book on anti-Jewish triumphalism in Handel’s Messiah.