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Cambridge Interfaith Programme

An unsmiling head shot of a statue of JS Bach, with red brick city scape behind.

Topic: Ambivalence, paradox, and eschatology in J.S. Bach

Speaker: Dr Giles Waller

This second Colloquy session examines Bach’s cantata BWV 66, Erfreut euch ihr Herzen. We will explore how the musical setting of a text can mediate, sustain, and point beyond theological and philosophical contradictions and paradoxes.

Bach’s cantata, written for the second day of Easter in 1724, stages a dramatic dialogue between a pair of voices, marked in the score as ‘Fear’ and ‘Hope’. ‘Hope’ sings of confidence in the resurrection of Jesus as the underpinning of human joy in the renewal of life. ‘Fear’, however, sings words that directly contradict those of hope. At the level of the text, their dispute is largely unresolved.

  • How does our understanding of this theological tension change when we hear the musical setting of these voices?
  • What role does a pervading ‘mood’ play in our understanding of representation in music?
  • And in what sense might this allow us to appreciate Bach as a Lutheran theologian?
  • How does music relate to our understandings and experience of faith and doubt?

The advance reading for this session is:

  • Jeremy Begbie (2000) ‘Resolution and salvation’, Theology, music and time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 98–128.

About the speaker

Dr Giles Waller, a Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity, is a core member of the Cambridge Interfaith Programme team. His research and teaching focus on Christian doctrine, literature, music, poetry, and philosophy.

More about Giles (via the Faculty of Divinity website) (


This event is part of the CIP Summer Colloquy on Religious relations and sound (3 July to 7 August, 2023). Attendance is restricted to those participating in the Colloquy.

Featured image: Detail from an original photograph by Thomas Vogt. Licensed CC-by-2.0.

Monday, 10 July, 2023 - 13:00 to 14:30
Event location: 
Online (Zoom) - times specified are for Cambridge, UK

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