On Thursday, The El Sistema Trombone choir will perform the chorale “Nun Danket Alle Gott,” written by Johann Crüger (1648), harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach and edited for trombones by Robert King (1958).
The trombone and the German chorale have been associated since the 17th century. Stadtpfeifer, which in German means “city official musicians”, used trombones to perform chorales from the church towers. This custom is still preserved today among the Moravian churches in Germany, and in Pennsylvania, USA.
Often, these groups had a full choir of trombones – descant, alto, tenor and bass – all of different sizes. Today, most amateur trombone choirs use only tenor and bass trombones.
The title of this chorale translates into English as “Now Thank we all our God” and is harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach harmonized at least 371 melodies from the Lutheran Church Hymnal. The composer of this melody, Johann Crüger, was famous as the editor of the most widely used Lutheran Hymnal of the 17th century. Crüger lost his wife and 5 of his children to the Black Plague, and yet was still able to write the hymn “Now Thank we all our God.”