Sunday, December 27, 2009
Here is a taste of what to expect this semester!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
500 in the audience
1 fantastic concert!
A huge thank you to all the performers, parents, and teachers that made last nights concert a smashing success! It is a special opportunity to have a concert that spans the generations; we had performers and listeners of all ages, 5-75!!! It was also wonderful to have such a full house of excited and attentive listeners!
Thank you to the MHC Adult Choir, and Girls' Choir; I appreciate your dedication and hard work, they have surely reaped reward. Thank you to the Junior Orchestra, your hard work certainly paid off - you sounded fantastic. And thank you to the Academy Orchestra; your professionalism and focus take our music making to the next level.
And finally, a huge thank you to all the faculty and staff who made this concert possible - I have very much enjoyed working collaboratively, and look forward to our next project, whatever that may be!
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14
Monday, November 2, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
http://s119247422.websitehome.co.uk/midimusic/Vivaldi/Gloria/gloria.html - midi files with emphasized voice parts
http://www.cyberbass.com/Major_Works/Vivaldi_A/vivaldi_gloria.htm - midi files with emphasized voice parts
http://www.sad60.k12.me.us/~lowell/NobleChorusPage/VivaldiProject.html - mp3 files with actual people singing emphasized voice parts. Very cool, but not the best model of how we want to sound. Nevertheless, this can still be a very helpful site.
To download tracks, right click each link and click 'save as'. You will then be able to make a CD or put them on your iPod.
If you have found other sites with similar options, please email the links and I will post them here.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
And a huge thank you to all the parents who made the retreat possible!
Check out this picture - I couldn't quite get used to all the gunk left on my hands after our Saturday night spa!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I hope you had a wonderful summer and are now ready to get back to singing! As you most likely already know, we are going to tackle Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria (RV589) this semester! I have chosen this piece for several reasons. First of all, it is a fantastic piece for a Christmas concert. It is festive, happy, and easy for an audience to listen to - this is largely due to the fact that most of the sections are in a major key, have a quick tempo, and are repetitve. I realize that many of you are familiar with the piece, and that is a good thing! Hopefully this will allow us more time to become very comfortable with the pitches, rhythms, and texts and therefore be able 'fine tune' our sound in the later rehearsals. It is my goal to spend at least half of our rehearsal time working on more artistic aspects of the music: dynamics, timbre, diction, interpretation, etc, instead of 'note-pounding' in the final rehearsals.
If you have never sung Mr. Vivaldi before, fear not! You will find that it is simpler than the previous works we've done and you will catch on quickly. And, of course, I have linked some very helpful youtube videos which you can find below.
I am excited for a new year and am looking very much forward to working with you all again! Please check back here often as I will likely 'geek out' and write some more about Vivaldi and his Gloria. Also, please feel free to leave comments on the blog, email me, or call me if you have any questions at all, or even if you just want to tell me about your day.
Christmas Concert: Tuesday, December 15, 2009. Please mark it on your calendars!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
A few dozen members of the Medicine Hat College Girls’ Choir recently returned from a two-week tour through France and Holland where they were invited participants of the 2009 Europa Cantat festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The group, along with their choral director Brad van Middlekoop, accompanist Constantine Shandro and several chaperones, traveled to Europe in mid-July to perform at notable locations including Euro Disney and Vimy Ridge.For first time Europe traveller Avery Taves, 17, the Euro Disney performance was her highlight.“It was all really exciting. It was a great opportunity for our choir, especially considering that it was our first year with our director Brad,” said the Medicine Hat High School student.“It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”The Medicine Hat group worked under the direction of Venezuelan vocal instructor Cristian Grases during the Europa Cantat festival to learn five performance pieces in five days — three of which were in foreign languages.Taves said she learned a lot while at the festival and thoroughly enjoyed performing with other choirs from around the globe.“It was a very neat festival,” said the second soprano.Crescent Heights High School student Meagan Thorson was hard pressed to pick a highlight from her trip to Europe but she managed to narrow it down to seeing Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, singing at the Europa Cantat festival or sightseeing in Paris. “It’s been my dream to go to Paris since I was four,” the 15-year-old said. “Yeah that was quite fun.”Both Taves and Thorson said they’d jump at the chance to perform in Europe again with the Medicine Hat College Girls’ Choir.“It was just a fantastic trip,” Thorson said.You can watch uploaded videos of the festival online at www.youtube.com by searching ‘2009 Europa Cantat.’
Thursday, June 18, 2009
See you in September!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Auditions will be held on Friday, May 29 from 4:00-9:00 at the Cultural Centre. No preparation is needed to audition.
Contact Bradley van Middelkoop (403-529-4800; firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information or to schedule your audition.
Spread the news to family and friends!
Friday, April 24, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
The MHC Girls' Choir, Children's Choir, and Junior Choir Spring Concert
Wednesday, June 17, 2009; 7:00
Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre
Spread the news! Tickets will be available soon...
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The following are audio links of Saturday's concert - they will not be available forever, so enjoy them while they are here!
Part the first
E'en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come
Balm in Gilead - Thanks Susan and Peter!
Part the second - Taylene Lyon, mezzo-soprano
Tell Me the Truth About Love
What a Movie!
Part the thrid
Cantata No. 4 - Christ lag in Todesbanden - Johann Sebastian Bach
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Hello Girls' Choir! Please watch the following videos and write down your responses. What does each group do well? Not so well? What aspects of their interpretation would you like to adopt? Think of things such as dynamics, articulation, timbre, diction, and tempo.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The term cantata originally meant, and literally means “to be sung”. In the beginning, the term encompassed all sorts of vocal music, however, the term now carries much more baggage. A cantata normally contains several movements united by a single thought, or theme. There are cantata di chiesa, church cantatas, and canatata di camera, court (secular) cantatas. Bach was an expert at writing cantatas for the church. In fact, he wrote a different cantata for every Sunday and Festival day for at least three years in a row! Bach themed his cantatas on the scripture readings for each Sunday. These readings, set out in advance by the church at large, allow church-goers to experience the entire passion of Christ throughout the liturgical year. Thus, Bach’s cantatas do the same.
Cantata No. 4 - Christ lag in Todesbanden
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christ lag in Todesbanden was first performed on an Easter Sunday sometime between 1708 and 1714 in Arnstadt during the early stages of his compositional career. The exact date of composition is not known; however, the text itself proves that the cantata was intended for Easter Sunday.
This work is based solely on a cantus firmus or fixed melody, that is, a tune that is common between all movements. The tune, or cantus firmus of Cantata No. 4 existed well before Bach’s time. It finds its origins in the Gregorian Easter Alleluia Victimae paschali laudes. Martin Luther, often borrowing music from various sources, used this Gregorian chant to invent music for the new Protestant church of the Reformation. To accompany this melody, Luther wrote five verses which he based on Biblical texts, and kept two verses from the original chant. Most importantly, Luther’s text was in German, the language understood by the common people. It was this chorale, titled Christ lag in Todesbanden, that Bach then used as a foundation for this cantata.
The cantata consists of seven verses and an opening sinfonia, all of which contain the cantus firmus. After the sinfonia, the first verse immediately starts with the cantus firmus in the soprano. Verse one then follows a strict development: each line of the cantus firmus is first presented in the Alto, Tenor, and Bass voices. Following that, it is heard soaring above the texture in the Soprano voice. All four voices are not heard together again until verse 4, the center and musical balancing point of the cantata. The final chorus is a simple, four-part harmonization of the chorale melody. The cantata is a good example of Bach’s obsession with math and symmetry, the best example being the cantata’s seven verses that form a symmetrical structure:
SATB - SA - T - SATB - B - ST - SATB
The cantata is littered with musical imagery, word-play, and musical jokes which makes the text inseparable from the music. Although Martin Luther and Bach both believed that church music is intended to be in a language that is widely understood by it’s listeners, singing this music in English would significantly take away from the genius of Bach and his work.
The Sinfonia, or instrumental introduction, to this cantata plays a crucial role in establishing several thematic ideas which are repeatedly used by Bach to tie each of the following verses together. The first of these themes is the most important: the Sinfonia introduces the melody, or cantus firmus, that remains constant from verse to verse. Although Bach subsequently alters the cantus firums from verse to verse, the character and essence of the melody remains constant. Over the course of the enitre cantata, we will hear the melody presented eight times: once in each of the seven verses, and once as it is introduced in the sinfonia. And, amazingly, you will never get board from hearing the same tune eight times!
Another theme to note is the reoccurrence of the descending minor second. Often thought of as the most sombre and sad musical interval, Bach wastes no time in setting the mood of the piece by using a series of five descending minor seconds to open the sinfonia. In verse two, Bach again uses a series of descending minor seconds to musically describe the word 'death'. Although this theme effectively communicates sadness, misery, and death to the listener, it is not the most important aspect of the cantata - we have to remember that this is an Easter cantata and it is actually celebrating the resurrection of Christ and not his death. Which brings us the to the last unifying theme of the cantata...
Hallelujah! Although the sinfonia is for instruments only, its purpose is to introduce the cantus firmus in its entirety. Each verse of Luther's text ends in the word Hallelujah, and although Bach treats the word Hallelujah differently in each verse, he successfully uses rhythm, harmony, and repetitions of the word to musically communicate the excitement and joy of Hallelujah. So, even in the opening sinfonia where the listener does not hear the word, the first violin breaks out of the texture for a glorious moment where the word Hallelujah would be sung.
It is important to remember that in this work, the cantus firmus rules. Bach structures each verse around the all-important hymn tune. The first thing heard in verse one is the first note of the cantus firmus, sung by the sopranos. Bach considers the cantus firums to be so important that in an attempt to highlight the sopranos' entrance, no other voices or instruments are heard until the sopranos have firmly started the melody. The other voices and instruments join the texture one at a time, until everyone is busy with their own seemingly separate and unrelated lines. Once everyone has entered, the sopranos finally move from their initial pitch and continue with the cantus firmus as it soars above the busy texture underneath them.
From this point on, Bach almost mathematically puts the music together. Each new line of the cantus firmus is presented first in the Tenor, then Alto, and then Bass voices until it stuck in the ear. Then, with the authority of having the highest voices, the sopranos again take the cantus firmus and allow it to soar above the texture.
Of particular interest in verse one, is Bach's setting of the word "fröhlich" which means 'joyful'. In a successful attempt at musically painting the word fröhlich, Bach uses long strings of quick and bouncy notes to communicate this joy!
Also of interest is the final 'Hallelujah' section. As always, the tenor begins with the cantus firmus, and subsequently passes it from voice to voice. However, unlike the previous lines, the soprano joins in the fun, and then all four voices are singing almost in unison for the first time since the beginning of the work. And then, a surprise ending! Suddenly the Tenors take off at double speed in a jubilant "Hallelujah" dance, and then as expected, the other voices join in too. It is then a train-wreck until the end of the piece however in the most positive of senses! Each voice interrupts one another with intercessions of Hallelujah after Hallelujah! Hearing this explosion of joy after the quiet, dry, and sombre 40 days and 40 nights of Lent must have been truly amazing!
The verse about death! The accompanying texture thins for this verse and all we are left with is the basso continuo: the cello and organ. Just as in the opening Sinfonia, the first notes we hear from the cello are the repetitions of the descending minor second, and then the voices come in singing about death on the minor second as well. Multiple repetitions of this motif are heard especially in the 'walking' cello line. Listen how the cello, soprano, and alto all use this two-note figure.
It is unknown whether Bach intended verses two, three, five, and six to be for solo singers or not. Normally Bach clearly indicated his intentions in his manuscripts by using words such as 'aria', 'recitative', or 'duet'. In this case however, those words are not present. It has been left up to conductors and performers to make this judgement call. Sometimes logistical and other factors play a determining role, however, the more people who can sing this fantastic music, the better!
The victory anthem! The violin energetically begins this verse in an almost dance-like fashion. The quicker speed, the energy of the violin, and the unison males’ voices all aid in communicating the text. The forward momentum comes to surprising halt when the men sing the word "nichts" which means 'nothing' and literally nothing is heard for a whole beat until the men sing, very slowly, of Death and its form. The remainder of the verse resumes with the triumph and victory it started with.
The Battle! Most important: the cantus firmus. Who has it? The Altos! All the other voices are caught up in the battle. The tenors begin this verse with a section of the melody, however, before they are done, the sopranos interrupt with a different section of melody. And, yup, you guessed it, the basses want in on the action so they interrupt as well. Thus begins the battle. It all comes to a head when the entire choir begins to sing "Wie ein Tod den andern fraß" which means ' One death devoured another'. The sopranos, tenors, and basses all sing the same material, only at slightly different times, giving the impression of a musical 'black hole'. Each part then gets 'devoured' and stops singing.
Bach then sets the words "Ein Spott" or 'a mockery' with such wit. In the same way a child mocks his peer, Bach sets this text in such a way as to mock the devil. Picture in your mind a child on the playground making fun of another child - what is he singing? "na Nana Nana na!". Can you hear it? Bach certainly did - he uses that childish tune and puts the words "ein spott" with it. The effect? A Mockery - the exact meaning of the words.
The Passover analogy. In this verse Luther's text uses distinct imagery and unfamiliar metaphors to present-day English speakers. Lines such as 'roasted in burning love' leave us somewhat confused. We need to remember however that poetry and culture where much different in Germany 400 years ago!
Listen for four words in this verse:
1) Kreuzes (Cross) - on this word, Bach put notes on the page in such a way that they made the shape of a cross; we therefore hear a small embellishment when the men sing this word.
2) Tode (Death) - Bach sets this word on one of the lowest notes a Bass can sing...
3) Würger (Murderer) - Bach sets this word on a very high pitch, and has the string section play with agitation
4) Nicht (no [more]) - here again, the vocal line suddenly stops when this word is sung
The Celebration! This vocally challenging duet embodies a celebratory feel due to Bach's use of the triplet figure. It dances forward, letting nothing prevent it from reaching the pinnacle Hallelujah section, sealing the message in our minds that Christ has won the battle against sin.
In Communion. The term 'communion' should be interpreted in two different senses here. The text makes reference to us 'eating...true Easter bread' and certainly the benefit of Christ's death and resurrection is made available to us through the sacrament of Communion. The term also refers to the fact that Bach intended for the listening congregation to join in singing this final verse. The musicians and the listeners join together in song.
Verse seven is a simple, four-part harmonization of Luther's Chorale tune. Although this is the final verse of the cantata, this was likely the starting point for Bach when he decided to write this work.
In the style of a hymn, this chorale presents an odd dilemma to the performing choir. A simple hymn is not an ideal finish to a grand cantata. The addition of the audience or congregation singing would add the necessary energy and sparkle that could make a humble hymn become a grand ending, however concert goers certainly do not expect to be put on the spot and be asked to join in singing the final portion of a concert.
The compromise: a slightly romanticised version of the humble ending. Instead of singing the Chorale in true hymn style, some dramatic pauses and dynamic variances can be added to bring the necessary definitive ending the work deserves.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Christ lag in Todesbanden
Christ lay in the snares of death
Für unser Sünd gegeben,
And has given Himself for our sins;
Er ist wieder erstanden
He is risen again
Und hat uns bracht das Leben;
And has brought us Life;
Des wir sollen fröhlich sein,
For this we should be joyful,
Gott loben und ihm dankbar sein
Praise god and be grateful to Him,
Und singen hallelujah,
And sing ‘Alleluia”.
Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt
Death no one could subdue
Bei allen Menschenkindern,
Among all the children of men;
Das macht' alles unser Sünd,
That was all caused by our sin:
Kein Unschuld war zu finden.
No innoncence was to be found.
Davon kam der Tod so bald
Therefore soon came Death
Und nahm über uns Gewalt,
And took power over us,
Hielt uns in seinem Reich gefangen.
Holding us captive in its kingdom
Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn,
Jesus Christ, God’s Son
An unser Statt ist kommen
Has come in our place
Und hat die Sünde weggetan,
And has abolished our sin,
Damit dem Tod genommen
Thereby removing from Death
All sein Recht und sein Gewalt,
All its right and its power,
Da bleibet nichts denn Tods Gestalt,
Nothing remains but Death’s form:
Den Stach'l hat er verloren.
It has lost its sting.
Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg,
There was a marvellous battle
Da Tod und Leben rungen,
When Death and Life struggled;
Das Leben behielt den Sieg,
Life won the victory:
Es hat den Tod verschlungen.
It has swalled up Death.
Die Schrift hat verkündiget das,
Scripture has proclaimed this:
Wie ein Tod den andern fraß,
How one Death devoured another;
Ein Spott aus dem Tod ist worden.
A mockery has been made of Death.
Hier ist das rechte Osterlamm,
Here is the true Easter Lamb,
Davon Gott hat geboten,
As God has commanded,
Das ist hoch an des Kreuzes Stamm
High on the Cross’s beam it has
In heißer Lieb gebraten,
Roasted in burning Love.
Das Blut zeichnet unser Tür,
Its blood makes our door,
Das hält der Glaub dem Tode für,
Faith holds it up to Death:
Der Würger kann uns nicht mehr schaden.
The murderer can harm us no more.
So feiern wir das hohe Fest
Then we celebrate this hight feast
Mit Herzensfreud und Wonne,
With heartfelt joy and delight,
Das uns der Herre scheinen lässt,
Which the Lord makes manifest to us.
Er ist selber die Sonne,
He Himself is the Sun,
Der durch seiner Gnade Glanz
Who through the radiance of His grace
Erleuchtet unser Herzen ganz,
Wholly illuminates our hearts;
Der Sünden Nacht ist verschwunden.
The night of sin has vanished.
Wir essen und leben wohl
We eat and live well
In rechten Osterfladen,
On true Easter Bread:
Der alte Sauerteig nicht soll
The old heaven ought not to abide
Sein bei dem Wort der Gnaden,
With the Word of Grace;
Christus will die Koste sein
Christ would be our sustenance
Und speisen die Seel allein,
And alone nourish the soul:
Der Glaub will keins andern leben.
Faith would live on nothing else.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Medicine Hat College Adult Choir is doing Bach's cantata 4 and I have already posted rehearsal tracks here (thanks again, Con) but if you'd like another version check out this link. Verse 7 is included on this site if you are interested...
It is a shame I didn't find this sooner for the Adult Choir - we did Rutter's Gloria last semester and these tracks would have been very helpful. Oh well, next time.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The following tracks will help you learn your parts! Select the the appropriate verse and voice part, listen, and learn lots! The files are in .mp3 format. You may download the files you want by right-clicking the appropriate link, and selecting "Save Target As..."
- Verse 1, Soprano
- Verse 1, Alto
- Verse 1, Tenor
- Verse 1, Bass
- Verse 4, Soprano
- Verse 4, Alto
- Verse 4, Tenor
- Verse 4, Bass
Thank you very much to Con for doing these for us!
Monday, January 26, 2009
The orchestra normally performs without a conductor, however, since in this case it was important for the orchestra to stay together both with themselves and with Mr. Penner, I was asked to conduct.
I got the scores, many of which I already knew from growing up watching Fred, and began to prepare. The scores however, were far from ideal. Fred puts on concerts with orchestras all over Canada and even internationally - that means the scores have seen many conductors and many orchestras. The hand-written scores were well used; every conductor from coast to coast has put their own markings in them. Red, blue, green pen, different colored pencils, many post-it notes, and an enormous amount of pencil made each score look more like a children's colouring book than a piece of music.
Challenge number one: decifering the scores! A few hours with each score and I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I even started to understand many of the marks, post-its, extra pages, and crossed-out sections that previous conductors had added.
I never really thought much about the fact that I was about to meet a celebrity from my childhood; I worked hard on making sure I was prepared. I met Fred at our rehearsal on Friday night - what a great guy! I tried to keep my professionalism and focus on the task at hand, when really I just wanted to talk about his TV show, and how cool his log was (if you don't know about the log, then you've likely not seen his show...).
Rehearsal was challenging but good. There were many instances where I needed to change my gestures and interpretation very quickly in order to keep up with Fred and the way he does things. Challenge number two: making sure the orchestra and Fred start and stop playing together, and making sure what the orchestra had on their pages is actually what Fred was playing. Like Fred said part way through our rehearsal, "I wrote and recorded these songs 20 years ago, they have been done many different ways and there have been many changes since then." So, an extra repeat here and there, an extra bar in some places, a few ritardandos and fermatas, and a little rubato, and we were playing well together.
Unable to keep my excitment under control, I got a picture:
The concert was a success. I had a great time conducting, the orchestra had fun playing (and singing sometimes!), and I think Fred had a good time too.
I am thankful for this opportunity - It was a real learning experience for me! I look forward to doing more of this in the future. It was also quite fun to meet Fred Penner. We sang The Cat Came Back! How cool!!!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
- Jubilate Deo
- Our Soul Waits
- E'en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come
- Thou Shalt Know Him When He Comes
- Alle von Saba
- Three Choral Preludes
- Gloria I
- Gloria II
- Gloria III
Thank you for a fantastic first semester! I am pleased with what we accomplished in such a short time, and am very much looking forward to the winter semester! Bach here we come! (by the way, make sure you check out the other posts on this page - lots of Bach info, and recordings for you to listen to!)
Also, thank you to all the instrumentalists who played! Excellent job! It was great fun to do such a majestic concert with Organ, Timpani, and all the Brass!
Hello Choristers! The following tracks were recorded at the Girls' Choir, Children's Choir, and Junior Choir Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 14, 2008 at Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church. Some of you asked if you could re-listen, or listen to specific parts of that night. Please enjoy listening to the sounds that you made!
Carols of the World
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Iroquois Lullaby
- Hand me Down My Silver Trumpet
- Inscription of Hope
- Born This Christmas Day
- Louez le Seingeur
- Three Spanish Carols
- Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella
- Russian Candle Carol
- Speaking of Music
- Joy to the World / Sing for Joy
I am very happy with the way this concert turned out! All of the performers really stepped up and did their best. I am very proud of all the ensembles that were involved!
Thanks for a fantastic first semester!
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Here is a very small history of where this work comes from. I may have gotten a little carried away, but it sure was fun! Enjoy the sounds and the learning!
Martin Luther (not Mr. King, but the reformer from 500 years ago; responsible for Lutheranism and other protestant faiths), believed that church should be an interactive event for the common people as much as it was for clergy and the elite. Because of his influence, churches began to switch from using Latin (an already dead language) to the venacular (the language spoken by the common people) in their services. Therefore, a major point of his reform was to also have music that was singable and easily understood by congregations.
Because Luther was German, Lutheranism became an identifiably German faith. Bound with the tradition of Lutheranism, were several hymn-tunes. These hymn-tunes were familiar to the German people, and Luther and his contemporaries paid special attention to setting texts to these hymns that were easily understood by the commoners. These chorales, or german hymns, became a favorite starting point for the compisitions of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach would frequently take an old well-known Lutheran hymn tune (a chorale), and turn it into a multi-movement work called a cantata. The word cantata literally means 'to be sung' as opposed to the word concerto, which meant 'to be played'. This is the chorale that Bach used to craft the corresponding entire cantata. The sopranos sing the chorale "Christ lag in Todesbanden" very near (there are some chromatic alterations) to how it would have been sung 500 years ago. The other parts in the choir sing a harmonization that supports the sopranos and which was written by Bach. The entire cantata "Chirst lag in Todesbanden" is based on this tune. Bach crafts 7 verses with this same tune, but somehow each verse stands independant from another, and each verse is so completely different and interesting, that the performer and the listener never become bored.
Take a listen:
Listen to this one lots! We likely won't take it this fast, but this recording will give you a very good idea of our goal! Altos you have it relatively easy in this one. Can you hear the alto line? The Altos sing the Chorale meldoy throughout this verse.
Study this one hard! Sopranos have it easy for the most part because they are singing the chorale tune, but the rest of us have work to do! Listen, however, for small parts of the chorale tune in the other voice parts as well. Normally Bach introduces each line of the chorale tune in the Alto, Tenor, or Bass section accompanied by a counterpoint, then the sopranos sing the same obbligato line stretched out over several bars.
Listen how the music changes when the words are "Hallelujah, Hallelujah". After singing about how 'Christ lay in deaths grip,' the music speeds up (we wont speed up quite this much though) and becomes more dance-like when we offer God praise and thanksgiving through the word Hallelujah!