This mock brochure, offered to all participants in the Kids for Bach concert on 12 February 2012 and the Bach for Kids interactive sessions on 1 March 2012, is based on Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, by Christoph Wolff, and The Worlds of Johann Sebastian Bach, edited by Raymond Erickson.
Leipzig, 26 January 1729
Dear Prospective Scholar,
Thank you for your interest in spring admission to the Choral Scholars Program. We hope that these materials will inform you of the advantages of studying at St. Thomas School and encourage you to carefully prepare for your entrance examinations.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantor et Director Chori Musici
Since our founding in 1212, the educational goals of St. Thomas School have been:
- The knowledge and fear of God
- The vivid knowledge of His Divine Essence and Will
Because our ancestors determined that music should also be practiced at St. Thomas School, a special Choral Scholars Program is available to those who qualify and are selected.
Originally established as a school for the poor, St. Thomas School selects the most gifted among needy students, primarily from the vicinity of Leipzig. Since 1543, when the School became a civic institution, wealthy citizens have made charitable gifts and bequests on behalf of needy and gifted students who reside at the School and pursue both academic and musical instruction as alumni in the Choral Scholars Program. In fairness to all, instruction is also available to qualified local students as nonresident externi, without regard to need, but subject to the payment of tuition.
As the area’s most selective Latin school, with a senior faculty that often overlaps with that of Leipzig University, the level of instruction and the atmosphere of learning leads a significant number of St. Thomas School graduates to continue their education in theology, law, medicine and philosophy at the University.
The Choral Scholars Program
This spring, nine spaces are available for resident student alumni in the Choral Scholars Program.
As recipients of a free education, room and board and a small stipend, members of the Choral Scholars Program provide music for all of Leipzig’s churches.
Please note that a musical audition is required before admission to the Choral Scholars Program can be considered.
A rigorous admissions process will be conducted in order to identify candidates qualified for the limited number of alumni positions in the Choral Scholars Program.
Magister Johann Heinrich Ernesti, Rector, and Johann Christian Hebenstreit, Conrector, will test the applicants’ academic qualifications. Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantor, will examine each candidate’s musical background and potential, taking care to evaluate candidates for matters of intonation and sight-reading, experience in performance practices, and adeptness in proper music expression.
This committee of three will propose its rank list to the Chairman of the Board of the St. Thomas School for immediate admission to the Choral Scholars Program, possible admission to the Choral Scholars Program after reexamination, or admission as externi, outside of the Choral Scholars Program, when space permits.
Typical Profile of a Successful Candidate
Most candidates currently attend a Latin school and enter the Choral Scholars Program when they are thirteen or fourteen years old. Scholars can remain at St. Thomas School for a maximum of eight years, usually two years per class.
Recognizing the broadened educational advantage offered at St. Thomas School, candidates typically possess a good voice, fine proficiency in reading music notation, and talent in playing one or more musical instruments.
Course of Study
Altogether, fifty-five resident alumni and approximately a hundred nonresident externi pursue a rigorous course of study at St. Thomas School in the trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric and the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. As a result, great attention is placed on the mastery of Latin etymology and syntax, with lesser emphasis on Greek and Hebrew, leading to mastery of the Catechism. With respect to the acquisition of scientific knowledge, musical tuning systems, proportions of intervals, and the geometry of organ pipes are studied simultaneously with choir practice, singing lessons and musical performance. The prosody of recitatives and the meter and rhyme of arias are similarly investigated in an effort to glorify God through music.
Classes are held weekdays from 7 to 10 in the morning and from 12 to 3 in the afternoon. Unscheduled time is reserved for individual study, with alumni in their cubicles and externi at home.
With the exception of religious holidays and the three annual trade fairs, musical exercises with all classes are conducted on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 and 12 and on Friday at 12 in the school auditorium, which is suitably equipped with a small organ and a harpsichord. Practical examples for the vocal and instrumental repertoire help to amplify the daily lives and duties of the Choral Scholars as they pursue a theological education. Our Cantor also provides instrumental lessons in private or small groups, as appropriate.
Choral Scholars from the upper four classes are divided into four choirs and earn stipends by singing at church services, weddings and funerals.
Choir I, consisting of the twelve to sixteen most select singers from the upper classes, are under the direction of our Cantor and provide cantatas and other concerted music at the two main churches of St. Thomas and St. Nicholas in an alternating schedule. Four times a year they also provide the Old Service at the University Church of St. Paul’s.
The Choir I vocalists are divided into two sorts, namely concertists and ripienists. The concertists are ordinarily four in number, but sometimes also five, six, seven and even eight when music for two choirs is to be performed. The ripienists, too, must be a least eight, namely two for each soprano, alto, tenore and basso part. Such concerted pieces, which are mostly of Cantor Bach’s composition, are incomparably harder and more intricate than the repertoire sung by the other choirs.
Choir II also serves the two main churches in alternation with Choir I under the direction of the second prefect, singing mostly motets without instrumental accompaniment.
Choir III serves the New Church by singing motets and chorales under the direction of the third prefect.
Choir IV sings only hymns at St. Peter’s.
A stiff schedule of fines is subtracted from the stipend of all Choral Scholars who fail to exercise their art to the greatest degree possible. For example, every noticeable musical mistake is fined 1 groschen, and intentional and mischievous mistakes are fined 3 groschen.
These fines are used to defray the cost of repairing musical instruments and, for the use of the members of the congregations, the printing of booklets containing the texts of the weekly cantatas.