Newcomer’s Guide to Bach Vespers

From the South: Take Wooster Pike/US-50 East past Mariemont. Once in Terrace Park, after the stop light and railroad track bridge turn right on Miami Avenue.

From the North: On I-275, take exit 57 (OH 28 West) towards. Continue on OH 28 West through Old Milford. Cross the Miami River and turn left on Miami Avenue.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church is at 100 Miami Avenue, Terrace Park, Ohio.

Click here to get Google Maps directions.

Parking is available off street (click on the map below to enlarge). Parking can fill up , but there is also plenty of street parking. We recommend leaving a few extra minutes to find a spot.

The best way to enter the church is through the red doors under the main church tower. Red doors can be found on many Episcopal Churches throughout the United States. Red doors can symbolize much, but in our case one thing is certain: “YOU ARE WELCOME!”

parking-map-st-thomasWHY ISN’T THIS JUST A CONCERT?
Bach’s sacred cantatas were written for a specific context. While we cannot recreate all of the original conditions (i.e. 18th-century Lutheran Germany), we feel that by experiencing this music in a similar way, we can heighten our appreciation of the art and, for many, connect with a deep sense of spirituality.

Yes! The Bach Vespers is open to anyone. Although it is a religious service, we hope that all people, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or background, will feel welcome. We make a point each Vespers to invite people to participate in whatever way they feel most comfortable, whether that be joining in prayer and singing, or simply letting the music wash over them. Bach Vespers is about new community.

Bach Vespers are free and open to the public. We do not pass a plate during the service. That being said, we are always grateful for the generosity of our patrons. Our organization exists only through private donations and is not a part of St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s budget.

There are justifications for performances both in the original language and in the language of the listener. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was done with the intention of making the text available to all people, and not just the clergy. The use of the German language in Bach’s cantatas falls right in line with this goal.

However, there is also an artistic question as well. The sounds and inflections of language are a part of what contributes to a work of spoken or sung art. That is to say, words have both meaning and sound, and both are a part of the experience. Imagine seeing a stained-glass window in person vs. seeing a printed copy of a picture of the window. The printed copy may show the images and colors, but would likely be unable to capture the experience of seeing the sun shining through the glass.

No choice is perfect; in this case we choose the nuance and beauty of the original German.


There are many outstanding resources of the music of Bach, including translations, program notes, and performances. Here are some of our favorites:

Bach Cantatas Website – comprehensive background on Bach’s music

All of Bach – video performances from the Netherlands Bach Choir

Emmanuel Music – Bach Notes and Translations – program notes and translations

The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach – A listener and student guide

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