at St. Thomas´ Church
From the beginning of its existence in 1743, the private concert society Leipziger Concert maintained a close relationship with the the boys' choir of St. Thomas’s Church. Gewandhausorchester musicians were frequently enlisted to augment the ensemble performing in the two principal churches of St. Nicolai and St. Thomas, despite church music remaining very much the territory of the privileged Stadtpfeiffer (City Pipers) - the only musicians officially entitled to undertake such duties.
In 1789, seven auxiliary positions were created in the church orchestra, to which exclusively Gewandhaus musicians were appointed. This was the first step in the Gewandhausorchester’s gradual assumption of the City Pipers’ duties.
Shortly after Mendelssohn took office as Gewandhauskapellmeister, a fundamental and lasting change in the administrative structure of the Gewandhausorchester took place. The core of the orchestra, comprising the 27 musicians entitled to a pension, was appointed the municipal orchestra in September 1840. This originally extended only to the sacred music duties, the musicians being assigned responsibility for "the performance of church music at the morning and afternoon services on Sundays and feast days in the two principal churches of St. Thomas and St. Nicolai".
Initially established due simply to the evacuation of the boys of St. Thomas’s Choir during the Second World War - they took refuge in the small town of Grimma to the south-east of Leipzig, travelling into the city only on Saturdays for the Motet in St. Thomas’s Church – the Motette was retained after the Second World War, becoming a tradition of its own. To this day, the Gewandhausorchester and St. Thomas’s Choir perform a cantata by JS Bach in the Motette most Saturday afternoons.