“Who is your favourite musician?”
Whenever people ask me this question, after thinking for a moment, I answer “J. S. Bach.” My answer is always the same, but I hesitate because I sense that it’s probably outside of the range of answers they expect to hear. J. S. Bach is the world famous music composer who lived and worked in Leipzig, Germany in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He is my all-time favourite musician.
My encounter with Bach took place when I was six. I was taking piano lessons, and one of the lesson books was a compilation of different baroque music pieces. I liked all the pieces in this lesson book, but whenever I loved a piece in particular, the composer’s name was always J. S. Bach. “This person called J. S. Bach is quite something. Because I always like his music!” I thought to myself.
When I turned seven, I started working on a lesson book called Little Preludes and Fugues by J. S. Bach. In this book, all the pieces were composed by Bach! I used to hate practicing the piano, but I was eager to work on this lesson book. The melodies, the tunes, the harmonies, everything about Bach’s music spoke to my heart deeply and gave me comfort and satisfaction at the same time.
That Christmas, seeing that I was quite into Bach’s music, my father gave me a biography of Bach written for young children as a Christmas present. I jumped with joy, and started reading the book right away.
This biography was particularly well-written. In a story-telling style, the book explored J. S. Bach’s childhood, how he was the youngest of several siblings, how he became an orphanage at the age of ten, how he practiced his music, his young adulthood as an organist, the loss of his first wife to death, his second marriage, and his full adult life as a great musician who always had to face the opposition from the people in power at the time due to his “unfashionable” music style. I was struck by the way Bach always remained true to his faith both in his life and his music even at the cost of inconvenience in the society and at the risk of being perceived as stubborn. Moreover, despite his difficult life circumstances, he also didn’t forget to enjoy his life over good meal and wine!
I was so absorbed in the book that I didn’t put it down until I finished reading it. When I finished, it was in the late afternoon of the boxing day. My mother was taking a nap in the sofa, but when I announced that I had finished the book, she sat up and said,
“Wow, you were quite focused for all this while!”
I turned to my mother and solemnly declared,
“Mommy, I’m so impressed. I love Bach!”
That was the day I fell completely in love with J. S. Bach. Both the music and the life of this person spoke to my heart and soul. To this day, his music touches my heart in a way no other music does – like a personal message.