MEMS Colloquium Concert-Lecture: Christopher Boyd Brown – Harmonious Monk


(audience applauds) – Hello, everyone, welcome
to Harmonious Monk: Martin Luther and his
Reformation through Music. We’re particularly
excited about the format of our event this evening. Our guest speaker, Dr.
Christopher Boyd Brown, will be discussing the role
that congregational singing played in spreading Martin
Luther’s revolutionary ideas. And the rest of us, UMBC’s Camerata Choir, the Collegium Musicum, and
even you in the audience, will be providing the musical
examples as we go along. Yeah.
(audience laughs) This event would not be happening without the support of many departments. We want to thank our sponsors, the Medieval and Early
Modern Studies minor, the Department of Music, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, and the Religious Studies Program. This talk is part of the
Humanities Forum series and we have some really interesting events coming up after this. I encourage you to take a look, either on the flyer we have available or at the Dresher Center Website which is: dreshercenter.umbc.edu. Our next Humanities Forum
event is coming up on Monday, this next Monday, October 9th, at 4 PM, in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery. For that event, which is
part of Ancient Studies Week, we present Life, Love, and
Law in Classical Athens, a talk by Victoria Wohl, professor of Athenian
literature and culture at the University of Toronto. In this talk, Dr. Wohl
will discuss court cases from classical Athens that
were full of mistresses and prostitutes, bastard
children, and secret love affairs. Dr. Wohl will show how
Athenians negotiated the law in everyday life and
the tragedy that ensued when they transgressed it. It should be a really lively event and I hope to see you there. Now about our speaker for this evening. Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown
is an associate professor of church history at Boston University and is an active scholar of Martin
Luther’s works and legacy. His book, entitled Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the
Success of the Reformation, argues for the prominence
of vernacular music in spreading Lutheran
doctrine and identity in homes and among lay populations. He is one of two general
editors of a 20-volume extension of the American edition of Luther’s works which began to be published in 2009. Help me welcome him to the stage. We’re pleased to have him with us collaborating on this exciting event. (audience applauds) (audience applauds) (choir singing in foreign language) (audience applauds) – The Protestant Reformation
was a deliberate transformation of the oral culture that is the soundscape of late medieval and early modern Europe. Martin Luther offered a radical
redefinition of Christians as defined primarily by what they heard. Fides ex auditu, faith comes by hearing. For Luther, not only
preaching but also singing was a central means of
spreading the Reformation and of establishing it in the
culture of early modern Europe. 16th century Christians came to be divided by the questions of what
Christians ought to hear or not to hear. What sounds should they
participate in making? What was the spiritual
significance or danger of that hearing and sounding? Music, sung or played,
in churches or schools or streets or courts or homes, by choirs or congregations
or professional musicians, in unison or in polyphony, in
Latin or in the vernacular, with religious or with secular texts, with instruments or without them? Was music an instrument of divine power or a sensuous seduction
from the spiritual? Or was it simply a religiously
indifferent ornament? To enter that world, we
must imagine what music would be like without iPods
or even compact discs. Musical notation could,
of course, be circulated from place to place, but music
itself had to be produced or reproduced locally. If you wanted to hear
music, you had to produce it by playing or singing it
yourself or with your household, or by hiring musicians, or by going somewhere where
musicians were playing, in church, at court, or in public. So tonight you’ve come
somewhere where there are live musicians, so
that’s an excellent start. The outpouring of vernacular
song that accompanied the spread of the Reformation was, in the ears of contemporary
observers and hearers, a seismic shift in western Christendom. The chronicle of the
Saxon town of Honenburg visibly records what it was
like to live through this. The year 1524. This year, there arose great
strife with the monks and nuns who ran from the cloisters. The priests took women in marriage and then mass was held in German. The sacrament was also
distributed in both kinds, and German hymns were sung. The people were emboldened
and held up Luther’s doctrine as the pure religion,
publishing psalters and hymnals. Though the upheavals
of Germany in the 1520s were eventually stilled, the popularity of
Reformation song continued, attested especially, perhaps, in the observations of those who sought to suppress or to supplant it. For example, the Roman Catholic clergyman and hymn writer himself Johann Leisentrit complained about Lutheran hymns in 1584. “How these slanderous, abusive, “and shameless little ditties
have been spread everywhere “in so few years, how they
have become so familiar “and very well known, “how there have come to
be nearly as many of them “as there are people in these lands, “it is not easy for me to say, “nor for one who has not
experienced it to imagine.” A generation later still, the Carmelite monk Thomas
a Jesu wrote in 1613, “It is a marvel how much
the vernacular songs, “a great many of them from
Luther’s own workshop, “have served to advance Lutheranism.” Nor is it only the churches and schools that resound with this kind of singing, but even private houses,
workshops, marketplaces, streets, and fields, for
they are used everywhere by persons of every class, whether to relieve
weariness, or to ease labor, or simply to pass time.” Or, finally, as the German
Jesuit Adam Contzen put it epigrammatically, from his
own perspective, in 1620, “The hymns of Luther
have killed more souls “than all his writing and preaching.” (audience laughs) Tonight’s program seeks to
explore how and why Luther inaugurated this reformation,
or revolution, in sound. Late medieval era, before the Reformation, had, of course, its own rich soundscape. The Christians liturgy was
sung exclusively in Latin with more or less elaboration
in a tradition of chant ascribed, albeit inaccurately,
to Pope Gregory the Great, which was cultivated in monasteries and cathedral churches especially. Though the academic study of
music and medieval schools treated it chiefly as a
branch of mathematics, the ratios of different
frequencies of note to one another, nonetheless school boys
preparing for university study often earned their support
by singing in choirs in order to support the liturgy. By the 15th century, polyphony, music in multiple simultaneous
independent parts, had established itself
especially in northern Europe as an alternative or augmentation to the traditional monophonic chant. Religious song in the vernacular, the common language of
everyday life and of the laity, did not have an official liturgical role in the medieval church but played a part in public
religious processions and in popular devotions surrounding major festivals of the Christian year, a tradition which survives for us in the traditional English
Christmas carols, for example. The most extensive
specimens of vernacular song from the late medieval
period, however, come not from the laity but from
women’s religious communities, where vernacular song
was cultivated by nuns who may not have been fluent in Latin. Outside of the church, music
was central to the festivities of court, town, and countryside alike. The bourgeois in the towns
cultivated their own musical culture of considerable
artistic complexity, such as the Meistersinger
tradition in Germany. Popular ballads constituted
an important means of spreading news across Europe because they were easy to memorize and to take from place to place. This was the world of music, of sound, into which Martin Luther was born in 1483. His own extensive exposure
to the musical culture of his time began, as
it did for many another late medieval schoolboy, in
his elementary school days, when he and other schoolboys
sang in the choir for services and went door to door singing for alms. So long before Martin Luther
became a monk or a priest, he was part of this musical world. As an adult, Luther was an
accomplished amateur musician, proficient as a lutenist
and a singer, and able to compose not only melodies
for several of his hymns but also one short psalm
motet in four-part polyphony. Luther reflected at
table among his friends on the varying gifts
of different composers, and especially, Luther praised Josquin, whose kyrie we’ve just heard. For Luther, Josquin stood
out from all other composers of his world as the master of the notes. Luther corresponded on terms
of friendship with some of the most prominent composers
of his own generation. A world of musical interests and abilities which allowed Luther to engage a flourishing musical culture around him. Such a background, such a
deep immersion in music was, of course, constructive
but not determinative of Luther’s theology
and practice of music. Arguably, the most accomplished musician among 16th century
reformers was, after all, the Zurich reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, who categorically
rejected the use of music in public Christian worship. Yet Luther became for his
part an unwavering advocate and defender of music, its religious use, and its spiritual power, a divinely appointed
means as Luther saw it, both of moving human emotions and of conveying God’s word itself. Luther, an obscure professor of theology and monk at one of the youngest
universities in Europe, the University of Wittenberg, burst into public notice with
the posting and publication of his 95 Theses on indulgences on the date October 31st, 1517, the date that we commemorate
now 500 years later. After several years of public hearings and demands that he recant, Luther was finally excommunicated in 1521 and condemned to death
as a heretic and outlaw by the Holy Roman Empire
at the Diet of Worms. The publication and
possession of his writings was henceforth, at least
theoretically, prohibited. For Luther’s protection,
his own prince took him into secret custody for over
a year in the Wartburg Castle, where Luther busied himself
during this enforced vacation by translating the New Testament
from Greek into German. During that time, however, it became clear that the movement that
Luther had sparked would not simply disappear because of
its official condemnation. And when Luther returned to public life in the spring of 1522, he
faced the task of organizing not only a protest but a new
mode of Christian worship, piety, and life. From this point forward,
music became a central focus of Luther and his Reformation. Not only Zwingli in
Zurich, in Switzerland, but even some of Luther’s
own colleagues believed that music should be eliminated from
reformed Christian worship. When Luther’s own colleague,
Andreas Bodenstein, from Karlstadt, celebrated mass in German for the first time at Wittenberg
on Christmas Day in 1521, his version of the liturgy
was in German but spoken. When Luther returned to
Wittenberg the following year, he began, on the other hand,
to give constructive shape to a program of music
that became distinctive of his Reformation. Luther’s first complete
proposal for a reformed liturgy, the Latin formula missae of 1523, although it criticizes excesses
in medieval church music and ceremonial, nonetheless
advocated the preservation of most of the traditional
liturgy and its music, to be sung by the priest and
choir as it had traditionally. But Luther also urged
that, for the future, the people should sing
songs in the vernacular interspersed among the Latin chants, until eventually the whole
mass could be sung in German. He identified a handful
of existing vernacular religious songs that were suitable and called on contemporary
German poets and composers to lend their hand writing
new and pious hymns. Now, the prince who had protected Luther after the Diet of Worms,
Frederick the Wise, the Elector of Saxony, was
also a patron of music, and it was Frederick’s court
composer, Johann Walter, who became Luther’s lifelong
musical collaborator. Thus, though Luther did
himself compose melodies for many of his hymns, it was
Walter who first provided them with polyphonic settings,
beginning in 1524. Luther’s own early
compositions and collaborations with Walter suggest
already in the first years of the musical reformation
the diversity of musical forms which he wanted to employ. Luther made use on the one hand of existing vernacular religious songs, selecting texts that were
theologically congenial, especially those which he regarded as focusing on Christ as Savior, and by implication omitting others, those focusing on Mary or on other saints. The selective use of
existing and familiar songs assured singers that they had always known and given voice to the Evangelical faith, however much it might have been obscured, according to Luther,
by clerical accretions. Luther also made new German
translations of Latin hymns from the medieval literature. Those who answered Luther’s
call to compose these first post-Reformation German hymns
were predominantly clergy, but also included laymen and laywomen, like Elizabeth Kreutziger, wife of the Wittenberg
professor Casper Kreutziger. Among the most active of
Luther’s early supporters in the field of song was
the Nuremberg shoemaker and Meistersinger Hans Sachs. Now, although Sachs based
some of his new compositions deliberately on secular models of song, that pattern of borrowing,
taking secular melodies and turning them to religious
use, was not, in fact, typical of Luther’s own hymns. Luther’s interest in
bridging the cultural gap between popular song
and ecclesiastical chant lay primarily in the opposite direction, and several of his most
popular hymns, in fact, had melodies that were
adapted from Gregorian chant. This kind of translation placed
texts that had previously been the property of the clergy now in the mouths of the laity, and also served to invoke the authority of the ancient fathers
of the Christian church in support of Lutheran teaching. We will hear next one of these hymns in Luther’s translation
and melody from 1524, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,” a translation of the
fourth century Latin hymn “Veni redemptor gentium”
by Saint Ambrose of Milan, “Savior of the Nations Come.” Luther uses but adapts the
ancient Gregorian melody and meter to suit the structure
of a Germanic language. Theologically, Luther seems
to have chosen this hymn to translate because of its
clear depiction as he saw it of God’s incarnation for
the sake of all humanity, and also we might note its
emphasis in the last stanza on faith as the means
of relationship to God. We will hear tonight the
traditional Latin chant first, followed by Luther’s version in full, in a variety of early modern settings. (“Veni redemptor gentium” by Ambrose) (choir chants in foreign language) (“Nun komm, der Heiden
Heiland” by Martin Luther) (choir sings in foreign language) (audience applauds) For Luther, the Word of God and theology were intimately linked to music. As Luther saw it, it was nearly impossible not to put theology into music, or, on the other hand, to be
a Christian and not to sing. As Luther wrote to the
contemporary musician Ludwig Senfl in 1530, “I plainly judge and do
not hesitate to affirm “that except for theology there
is no art that could be put “on the same level with music, “since, except for theology,
music alone produces “what otherwise only theology can do, “namely a calm and joyful disposition. “Manifest proof of this is
the fact that the Devil, “the creator of saddening
cares and disquieting worries “takes flight at the sound of music “almost as he takes flight
at the word of theology. “This is the reason why
the biblical prophets “did not make use of any art except music “when setting forth their theology. “They did it not as
geometry, not as arithmetic, “not as astronomy, but as music, “so that they held theology and
music most tightly connected “and proclaimed truth
through psalms and songs.” Luther insisted that the
cultivation of music by Christians, whether the singing of the
congregation or the choir or of the polyphony contained
in his collection with Walter, that such music was a
support to the Gospel rather than a distraction from it. As Luther wrote in his
first hymnal preface, “Nor am I of the opinion that the Gospel “should destroy and blight all the arts, “as some of the pseudo-religious claim. “Rather, I would like to see all the arts, “especially music, used
in the service of God “who gave and made them.” Luther’s identification
of music in its many forms as a creation and a gift of
God was profoundly influential within the Lutheran tradition. It also reflected a commitment
to using a wide range of cultural forms, from high to popular, in the service of the Gospel. The range of forms that
were cultivated in Lutheran public worship, from
simple vernacular chorales sung by the congregation, to
Gregorian chant, to polyphony, was wider than for any
other confessional group in early modern Europe. And the other Lutheran
clergy of the 16th century followed Luther in
encouraging this development, both practically and theologically. Lutherans hailed the
invention of polyphony as a providential gift of God given for the sake of
spreading the Gospel, no less than was, for example, the invention of the printing press. Lutherans also made use
of instrumental music in their worship, defending the practice against the scruples of Calvinists as well as of certain strands
of Roman Catholic asceticism. This tradition of Lutheran
music was not insular. It incorporated over
time new musical styles from elsewhere in Europe,
from Flanders, and from Italy, but it did develop its
own distinct tradition. Luther’s own musical
associates, Johann Walter and the music publisher Georg Bhau in the first generation
of the Reformation, helped to establish patterns
of Lutheran musicianship. Among the key elements of the
continuity in this tradition were the vernacular hymns themselves, their texts and their melodies, to which each successive
generation of Lutheran composers returned and on which
they continued to draw. At the headwaters of this tradition, Luther developed his thoughts
further in his 1538 preface to Georg Bhau’s 1538 Symphoniae iucundae, a collection of sacred and secular music for advanced amateur musicians. There, Luther proclaimed that, quote, “Next to the Word of God, music
deserves the highest praise, “both for the profound influence of music “over human emotions,
in a way that made it “the cognate of the theological Gospel.” For Luther, however, written
music retained its power over the affections and also
its goodness as a gift of God even when it was not put to
an explicitly religious use. His student, Johannes Mathesius, fondly reminisced about Luther
sitting at his dinner table, leading the singing of
a Latin motet based on Dido’s last words from Virgil’s Aeneid. And Lutheran clergy tended
to embrace secular music so long as it remained within what they perceived as the
limits of moral decency. Following Luther, who, in
his 1524 preface, had again criticized students for singing, quote, “love ballads and carnal songs,” his successors in Lutheran
pulpits criticized blasphemous, seditious, or unchaste lyrics. Such music, they argued, was
an abuse of God’s good creation but they commended, on the other hand, honorable secular music, the sort that Luther
himself had loved to sing. Though the openness of
Lutheran theologians to secular musical styles
should not be exaggerated, so far as church music was concerned, they wanted to keep secular melodies and their distraction
associations out of the church, Lutherans did provide
theological justification for the coexistence of
sacred and secular music in other important social contexts. Nonetheless, for Luther,
music had its highest purpose when it was joined with God’s Word for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was Luther’s original
purpose in encouraging the composition of German metrical songs, so that, quote, “The Word of God may abide “among the people through song.” And his 1524 preface, again,
emphasized this association of music with proclamation. He wrote, “Saint Paul
exhorted the Colossians “to sing spiritual songs and
psalms heartily unto the Lord “so that God’s Word and Christian doctrine “might be instilled and
implanted in many ways. “Therefore, I too, have,
with the help of others “compiled a number of hymns “so that the Holy Gospel,
which now by the grace of God, “has risen anew may be set
forth and given free course.” This conception of the
hymns and their music as containing and
conveying the Word of God was definitive of Lutheran
understanding and use of the new body of hymnody
in all its context. Early hymn boast that
their contents were, quote, “conformed to the pure Word of God,” or, “drawn from Holy Scripture.” This identification of hymns
with the biblical Word meant, in the first place, that
the theological content of the hymns was regarded
as fully reliable. Though Luther called for
German hymns to be written in simple, direct language, not in a formal, courtly,
perhaps incomprehensible style, the theology of the hymns
was not intended to be a compromised or minimal simplification. For example, Luther’s own 1523 hymn, “Dear Christians One and All Rejoice,” “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein,” clearly presented Luther’s teaching of the radical bondage of the human will which he had articulated in Latin theses in the 1518 Heidelberg disputation and defended against the humanist Erasmus in his 1525 book, On
the Bondage of the Will. (speaking in foreign language) The Latin theses of the university
doctor of theology were, in the hymns, presented in
direct, effective German verse and put in the ears and on the
lips of the ordinary laity. Above all, however, the Lutheran
identification of the hymns with the Word meant that the
hymns shared in the power of the Gospel as Luther understood it, both to create faith and to
comfort troubled consciences. Lutheran hymnal prefaces
boldly insisted that the Holy Spirit was as much
at work through the sung words of the hymns as he was through
the words of Scripture. The Lutheran pastor Cyriacus Spangenberg gave a lengthy catalog of
the fruits of the Spirit that he argued were produced
by the singing of the hymns, quote, “God is praised, the
human creature is spurred “to true devotion, all the chief
articles of divine doctrine “are called to mind, the
singer is strengthened, “the neighbor is taught,
encouraged, and exhorted, “and the hearts of both are comforted, “the soul is rejoiced,
the conscience stilled, “hope increased, the cross lightened, “fear and sadness are diminished,
the angels are delighted, “and the Devil put to flight
and brought to shame.” One of the prominent marks
of this indissoluble union between the Gospel and song
was Luther’s careful provision for having the text of
Scripture themselves sung. So when worshipers in 16th
century Lutheran Germany heard the text of Luther’s
new German Bible translation in public worship, they were meant to hear them
not merely read but sung, chanted according to a
pattern which Luther himself developed along with the
canter Johann Walter. Though chanting of the
Scriptures had a long history, both in Jewish and in Christian tradition, Luther’s new formula
emphasized in particular the dramatic and proclamatory
features of the text. Rather than the near monotony of formulas with slight inflections
around a single main pitch, Luther assigned different
pitches to the voice of Jesus, low, the voice of other persons, high, and the voice of the
evangelist on the middle pitch, and a system of inflections
for the musical setting of the text that emphasized
questions, clauses, conclusions, and other
rhetorical features of the text, the beginning of the tradition
of Lutheran passion settings. Tonight, we will hear part
of the traditional Gospel for Trinity Sunday chanter, first in the traditional pattern in Latin, and then in Luther’s new pattern, translated for tonight into
our own English vernacular. (woman chants in foreign language) ♫ The Holy Gospel according to Saint John ♫ Now there was a man of the
Pharisees named Nicodemus ♫ A ruler of the Jews ♫ This man came to Jesus
by night and said to him ♫ Rabbi, we know that you
are a teacher come from God ♫ For no one can do
these signs that you do ♫ Unless God is with him ♫ Jesus answered him ♫ Truly, truly I say to you ♫ Unless one is a born anew he
cannot see the Kingdom of God ♫ Nicodemus said to him ♫ How can a man be born when he is old ♫ Can he enter a second
time into his mother’s womb ♫ And be born ♫ Jesus answered ♫ Truly, truly I say to you ♫ Unless one is born
of water and the Spirit ♫ He cannot enter the Kingdom of God ♫ That which is born of the flesh is flesh ♫ And that which is born
of the spirit is spirit ♫ Do not marvel when I said to you ♫ You must be born anew ♫ The wind blows where it wills
and you hear the sound of it ♫ But you do not know whence
it comes or whither it goes ♫ So it is with everyone
who is born of the Spirit (audience applauds) One of Luther’s most radical challenges to the structures in medieval Christianity was to insist that not
only the ordained clergy but all Christians were priests. This was especially true
as Luther formulated it in the context of worship, where Luther declared that all
Christians were to take part in the proclamation of God’s word. Luther did not conclude
from this principle, as some other 16th century reformers did, that the whole congregation was obliged to sing the entire service. Instead, in application to worship, what Luther concluded was
that the whole service, however its acts might be
divided among ministers, choir, and laity, was, in fact, the common action and property
of the whole congregation. As he put it, quote, “So
also they all pray and sing “and give thanks together. “Here there is nothing that one possesses “and does for himself alone, “but what each one has
also belongs to the other.” Luther’s innovation in
structuring Christian worship was not to insist that
the lay congregation must perform any particular
part of the liturgy but rather to insist that
the laity could undertake any portion of the service, and that such lay participation
was much an organic and integral part of the liturgy as what the pastor
himself or the choir did. Luther understood even
the words of institution, the center of the Lord’s Supper, even though they were chanted
aloud by the pastor alone, as being the responsibility
of the whole congregation. Luther’s theology of worship
in this respect stood in stark contrast to the late
medieval theology of the mass, according to which everything
that was theologically essential was what was read
by the priest from the missal. Participation of the
congregation or even a choir was, in principle, at least,
liturgically superfluous. Within a Lutheran service
of the 16th century, then, any of the traditional
parts of the liturgy which Luther wanted to preserve
might, on the one hand, be sung by a choir, perhaps even the same Josquin setting of the
kyrie, for instance, with which we began tonight’s program. On the other hand, they might equally well be sung by the congregation,
now in a German translation, perhaps adapted from one
of the Latin melodies, or a completely new
German hymn text composed by Luther or one of his
collaborators in that project. Within the new patterns of
Lutheran worship, however, even the pieces that were taken unmodified from the medieval liturgical tradition were placed within a
radically new interpretation of the character and purpose
of Christian worship. Whether in Latin or in German, the central purpose of the
liturgical service of God, as Luther understood it,
was to proclaim the Gospel. And it was within this liturgical
theology of proclamation that the vernacular hymns
sung by the congregation found their place. So, for instance, the
Lutheran reformer of Swabia, Johann Brenz, declared, quote, “When we speak of the
preaching of the Word of God, “we do not understand only that
preaching which takes place “publicly in the pulpit
but also that takes place “in the public songs of the church. “The Holy Spirit works the same things “through the singing of
the church,” he wrote. Now, though it is not
difficult to find 16th century Lutheran pastors complaining
about congregational singing, or, indeed, about nearly
any other subject, (audience laughs) seen from the more sanguine perspective of a modern historian, congregational participation
in vernacular singing in 16th century Lutheran churches seems to have become rather successful. As interesting, perhaps, if not more so, than the complaints of pastors that are recorded in
reports on congregations, are congregational complaints
in which Lutheran laity in the late 16th century complain about their pastors tinkering
with Luther’s hymns, or the selection of obscure new ones, or the failure of the clergy to provide adequate opportunities for lay singing, sentiments that certainly reflect, read from the other side,
positive lay expectations for participation in congregational song. In towns across Lutheran
Germany in the 16th century, the Lutheran laity began
to join church choirs, counter high, of which Walter
himself formed the first one, and model in the community in Torgau, or in some places would gather
in church an hour before the service itself started in order to sing the new German hymns together. How this worked, again, might
vary depending on context. In country parishes, a
congregation might sing most of the liturgy itself, adapted
into hymns by Luther or others. In a town, a school
choir, the boys school, sometimes also the girls school,
might take a leading role, perhaps singing in polyphonic harmony, perhaps in alternation
with the congregation. The choir would sing one
verse in harmony and then the congregation would sing
the next verse in unison. Between sung parts of the service, the organ might be played, although, as hard as it may be for us to imagine, in the 16th century, no one
thought that playing the organ while the congregation was
trying to sing was a good idea. (audience laughs) That begins about the
beginning of the 17th century. But the organ might play between stanzas and the congregation
was invited to meditate on the words of the text. At some point in the 16th
century, Lutheran service, no matter how it was structured otherwise, at least before or after
the sermon, there would invariably be congregational
song in the vernacular. By the end of the century,
many churches had developed schedules associating
particular German hymns with particular Sundays or festivals and their associated Biblical readings. When clergy or even governments
were so presumptuous as to try to change these
hymns, as happened, for example, in Berlin in 1617, the
congregations responded by loudly singing them on their own anyway, (audience laughs) drowning out and defying
efforts to make them give up. Protestants, and Lutherans in particular, came to be identified by their singing. This evening, you are
invited to participate in singing one of Luther’s
most famous hymns, “Ein feste Burg,” “A Mighty Fortress,” which he wrote in 1529 with
a text based on Psalm 46 and a melody of his own composition. We will participate tonight
in a pattern that might well have been used in the 16th or
17th century Lutheran service, with the addition of
the organ for support. So I ask you please to watch the slides for the parts marked for the audience as well as Dr. Caracciolo’s direction. (“A Mighty Fortress Is
Our God” by Martin Luther) (choir sings in foreign language) ♫ A mighty fortress is our God ♫ A trusty shield and weapon ♫ He helps us free from every need ♫ That hath us now o’ertaken ♫ The old evil foe ♫ Now means deadly woe ♫ Deep guile and great might ♫ Are his dread arms in fight ♫ On Earth is not his equal ♫ With might of ours can naught be done ♫ Soon were our loss effected ♫ But for us fights the valiant one ♫ Whom God himself elected ♫ Ask ye, who is this ♫ Christ Jesus it is ♫ Of Sabbath Lord ♫ And there’s none other God ♫ He holds the field forever ♫ Though devils all the world should fill ♫ All eager to devour us ♫ We tremble not, we fear no ill ♫ They shall not overpower us ♫ This world’s prince may still ♫ Scowl fierce as he will ♫ He can harm us none ♫ He’s judged, the deed is done ♫ One little word can fell him ♫ The Word they still ♫ The Word they still shall let remain ♫ Nor any thanks have for it ♫ He’s by our side upon the plain ♫ With His good gifts and Spirit ♫ And take they our life ♫ Goods, fame, child, and wife ♫ Let these all be gone ♫ They yet have nothing won ♫ The Kingdom’s ours forever (audience applauds) One of the marks of the
success of Reformation singing was the explosion of publication
of printed collections of vernacular religious songs,
what we would call hymnals. By 1524, printers were
already beginning to gather the hymns of Luther and
others into collections. First a small pamphlet
with only eight hymns published in Nuremberg and Oxford, then the Enchiridion or Handbook
in Erfurt with 25 hymns, of which 18 were by Luther
and seven were by others. These collections, as
announced on their title pages and prefaces, were intended
for the laity to use, not only, quote, “to sing in the church,’ as is already the practice
to some extent in Wittenberg, but also with the belief
that they would be, quote, “very beneficial for every
Christian to have on hand “for constant exercise and meditation “on spiritual songs and psalms.” So not only public use
but also private devotion and use in the household were in view. Luther’s 1524 entry with Johann Walter into the publication of hymn
collections, on the other hand, was intended, at least principally, for the public instruction
of the youth in the schools. The Geystlich Gesangk
Buchleyn contained hymns, 24 by Luther, along with eight others, set by Walter in three, four,
or five polyphonic parts. Yet even in Wittenberg,
this first edition, intended to support schools and choirs, was followed the following
year by a second edition with the hymns in one part for the laity, as the title page announced. Luther’s participation in
the publication of hymn books continued throughout his
life, with the last revision and expansion containing
more than 200 hymns appearing the year before Luther’s death. In comparison with other
forms of Luther’s publication, the hymns stand out, thus,
though Luther’s German Bible, beginning in 1522, was
a remarkable success in the 16th century press,
a genuine bestseller, it was far outstripped over
the course of the 16th century in the number of copies
produced by Lutheran hymnals. In part, this can be seen
as an economic decision. In a time when a copy of
Luther’s German New Testament might have cost as much as a week’s wages for an ordinary laborer,
a hymnal could be had for the price of a day or two of work. So if, for us, a Bible cost about the same as one of the really nice
big-screen televisions, how many people would own a Bible? But the hymnal also had an
appeal beyond the economic. Luther’s hymnals and the
prefaces he wrote for them were reprinted throughout Germany, not only during his lifetime
but throughout the century, and formed the core of
expanding Lutheran hymnals of the following generations, many of which, however,
continued to identify themselves with Luther’s name on the title page. Dr. Martin Luther’s Songbook, as even 17th and 18th
century hymnals proclaimed, even as they grew beyond Luther’s hymns, still including them,
but adding the efforts of subsequent generations
of poets and composers. The republication of Luther’s hymnals reproduced not only
Luther’s hymns themselves but also his conception of
music and the role of the hymns, transmitting them to a wide audience and to subsequent generations. Between 1520 and 1600, in total, nearly 2,000 Lutheran hymn
editions appeared across Germany. Depending on the estimate used by scholars for average edition size,
that would represent between two and four million
copies in circulation by the end of the 16th century. But 16th century hymnals were,
in some important respects, unlike modern hymnals. A modern hymnal is usually
produced by a denomination, published by a denominational publisher, bought by individual
congregations or parishes to stick in the little racks
in the back of the pew, where people, if they come to church, can take them out and use them. But 16th century hymnals were
not produced in that way, or for that kind of market. Instead, other than books that
were specifically prepared, like the Geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn, for use by school choirs, hymnals in the 16th century were produced by enterprising printers who believed they could sell them and make a profit. They were purchased chiefly by the laity for their own private use. One of the marks of that is the size of 16th century hymnal editions. Rather than being big
books like the Bible, 16th century hymnals were
overwhelmingly in small formats, the kind that you could
put in your pocket, too small for a choir to look at but just right for
individual, private use. 16th century printers competed eagerly to capture a share of this hymnal market. Subsequent editions of
hymnals would proclaim on the title page the
features that should lead you to buy this hymnal even
if you already owned one. The addition of indexes, or illustrations, or boasting of the addition of new hymns which weren’t in the old edition. Some advertised themselves
as having large type for those who have difficulty seeing. But this is an active market trying to attract the laity and to sell a book. In churches in the 16th century, the laity who didn’t
possess their own hymnals or who, especially at the
beginning of the 16th century, did not yet know how to read, were expected to learn the
hymns not by reading them from a book but by listening to the choir, this choir of school children
who were singing them. We’ll return to the use
of hymnals in the home and by individuals in a moment, but before we come there, we should reflect on the role
of music in Lutheran schools where it became a central focus. Lutheran schools
participated in and magnified the transformation of musical instruction from the older emphasis on music
as a branch of mathematics, theoretical music, to the
teaching of music as a practical subject which emphasized performance. At Luther’s insistence, musical
training and proficiency were a prerequisite for teaching
or for pastoral service. But for the majority of 16th
century Lutheran students who did not follow vocations
as church musicians as clergy, the musical focus in Lutheran
schools helped to equip them with the musical ability
that Berger society expected, now closely intertwined
with Lutheran religion. The graduates of the schools,
as they became, as was hoped, prominent members of local
society and of town government, often continued to sing with the choir or counter in public services, and to direct their own musical interests and patronage to religious ends. These school choirs sang, as was expected, given the linguistic ideals
of early modern pedagogy, in Latin. After all, it was the
standard in late medieval and early modern schools that
were trying to train boys to enter the universities that the students would speak in Latin, and any lapses from Latin
into the vernacular, even speaking among
themselves in the dormitories or out in the streets, were
met with severe punishment. In that context, the
qualification that consistently appeared in Lutheran church
and school ordinances, that the schoolboys also
ought to sing in German if they were supporting the
singing of the congregation was a major concession. It also meant that the vernacular hymns, published in the hymnals,
sung by the choirs and by the congregations,
became the common possession of Lutherans at all levels
of education and culture, not only sung by the elite
students preparing for university but also accessible through hymnals or through oral transmission to the laity at the opposite end of
the educational spectrum. Thus, though the German hymns
were not the sole element in Lutheran public worship,
they played a key role in unifying the wide ranging
musical endeavors of the Lutheran churches and of the societies
that supported them. The public role of school choirs and town governments’ interest in them was not confined, however, to the performance of the liturgy, or the cultivation of polyphonic motets, or even the leading of
congregational song. The singing of the choirs, choirs of the Latin school, of German schools for boys, and, after Luther, German
schools for girls as well, regularly spilled outside of
the church into the streets, as the students, continuing
the old tradition in which Luther had participated, made their rounds collecting alms, but also continuing to
take a role in more formal processions, not only
on scholastic occasions, marking the start of the
school term, for example, but especially in funerals
and other occasions calling for public prayer, and therefore also for public music. Supported by protestant governments, the practice of music in the
schools, churches, and streets helped to shape and to
reinforce Lutheran identity by teaching and modeling
Evangelical faith, creating and sustaining a
common culture of Lutheran song. In turn, music in 16th
century Lutheran schools formed the foundation of
religious instruction as well. One of the most prominent
manifestations of this was Luther’s development
and use of a cycle of hymns based on the parts of his small cataclysm, his summary of the fundamental
parts of Christian belief which every child was expected
to memorize and to learn. Beginning with the 1529 Wittenberg hymnal, nearly all Lutheran
hymnals in the 16th century identified a section of cataclysm songs, and Luther recommended that
the pastors teach these hymns to the children as soon as they had learned the basic prose text. By the end of his life,
Luther had composed hymns for all of the chief
parts of his cataclysm, echoing or in some cases anticipating the explanations to the
prose cataclysm itself. But these hymns, the cataclysm
hymns and the others, were also intended to be used at home. Just as the small cataclysm
was the layman’s Bible, as Luther put it, so too
the hymn book was identified as the theological textbook of
the laity, the little Bible, a means of learning and
practicing the cataclysm even apart from the formal
instruction of the church. Cyriacus Spangenberg, again, echoed some of the complaints we heard at the beginning of tonight’s program about the ubiquity of these hymns. Quote, “The pious Dr.
Luther put the chief parts “of our Christian doctrine
into such altogether fine, “short, beautiful, and
understandable songs “that a craftsman in his workshop, “a peasant husbandman, herdsman,
or shepherd in the field, “a charcoal burner, a
woodcutter in the woods, “sailors, and fishermen on the water, “carters, messengers, and
other travelers on the road, “children, and servants at
home, or whoever they may be “can easily practice their
cataclysm at any time, “and at the same time
make public confession “of their Christian faith, to
honor God, to teach others, “and give a good example, “and to comfort and to
benefit themselves.” As Spangenberg’s remarks attest, for all the attention paid to
the public conduct of singing, arguably the most important
context for Lutheran hymns was in the home. The public and private
spheres intended for the use of the hymns, clear already
in the 1524 hymnals, were set alongside each
other in hymnal prefaces throughout the rest of the 16th century. As, for example, the Lubeck
hymnal of 1549 put it, quote, “People should thank and
praise God through Christ, “both in the common assembly of Christians “and also every pious parent
with children and household “should give thanks to God in the house “with psalms and songs of praise “to comfort and strengthen
each other in faith.” Or, as Lucas Osiander, one of
our composers this evening, wrote in 1569, “God’s word
should not only be proclaimed “and richly set forth in sermons “and careful expositions from the pulpit “but also with Christian hymns
and sweet spiritual songs “among the people of
God in the congregation “and also among Christian
parents and their households.” As Osiander continued, “For
it is and remains God’s word “whether it is read or sung.” By the middle of the 16th
century, hymnals adapted specifically for household
devotion began to appear. The most popular of
these were the songbooks of the (speaking in foreign
language) Nicolas Herman, who published versifications
of the Sunday Gospel lessons as well as hymns based on
Old Testament narratives that appeared in more than
50 editions, 50 editions, between 1560 and the end of the century, one of the most popular individual hymnals beside the reprintings of
extensions of Luther’s own. Though nearly all hymnals
were printed with an eye to household use, the books
that identify themselves specifically with that context
distinguished themselves in a number of respects. Some household volumes, in
unlike the patterns for public worship, took advantage of
their intended domestic context to offer religious songs
that were, in fact, set to worldly melodies acknowledged to be
inappropriate for the church. Herman’s own melodies, for example, were based on the patterns
of traditional miners’ songs, or (speaking in foreign language). Other household hymnals
emphasized hymns uniquely appropriate for household activities, hymns upon rising or going to bed, or even lullabies for calming infants. Children were supplied
with religious songs to be sung while dancing in a ring. The success of these volumes
in the press shows, again, the interest of early modern parents in supplying their households
and families with such songs. In his preface to Herman’s
collection of hymns based on the Sunday Gospels, the Wittenberg superintendent
and professor Paul Eber, who is himself the writer of several hymns for his own children,
described the kind of household devotions the book was meant to support as well as their benefit. Quote, “Fathers and mothers
who hold God’s Word dear “will be able to manifest their diligence “in accustoming their children
and servants to the hymns, “and singing along with them themselves, “and sometimes explaining
and expounding one stanza “after another, and such
household sermons, without doubt, “yield great benefit, so that
many simple, unlearned people “are better able to comfort
and encourage themselves “amid distress and temptation
with one of these hymns “than with a lengthy and
carefully arranged sermon.” Think about how remarkable it
is that a Lutheran pastor to concede that the household
devotions of parents and children yielded greater fruit than the sermons delivered from a pulpit. After all, in Luther’s understanding, it was the Word of God, whether conveyed in the
sermons or by the hymns, and not the clerical office, that was the vital point of contact with divine grace and power. The hymns of the Lutheran
tradition thus played a key role not only in household
religious instruction, sometimes reinforcing the
patterns of domestic hierarchy, as parents, both mothers and fathers, taught hymns to their children, but also sometimes reversing it as school children were encouraged to teach hymns to their parents. Not only in the rhythms of family devotion but also in the spiritual
care of Christians. So Paul Eber went on to claim that the hymns enabled
lay Christians to, quote, “comfort, instruct, and
greatly encourage themselves “and others in time of need,
even without the clergyman.” He himself reported that he
had been astonished as a pastor attending the members of his parish at the ability of Lutheran laity, and he mentions Lutheran
laywomen in particular, to apply and to derive comfort from the hymns that they had learned. Even on the deathbed, he said,
Lutheran laity were equipped with their own repertoire
of song, learned by heart, whether from the choir in the church or from her own hymnal. And if a Christian were
unable to sing for herself, then her husband, children, and neighbors stood ready to lend their voices. Finally, in circumstances of persecution, when Lutheran clergy were expelled and public worship forbidden
by hostile governments, the use of the hymns
in the domestic sphere proved to be a remarkably durable means of preserving Lutheran
identity among the laity. Lutherans insisted that this
singing of the hymns at home had just as much divine power as preaching or singing in the church. This confidence, joined
with the expectation that the preaching or
singing of the Gospel would bring sharp opposition from
the world and the Devil gave weight to Lutheran emphasis
on the household and its song, even if public proclamation,
the singing of choirs, the use of organs and
instruments should cease. Again, Spangenberg wrote, “It is to be feared that
Luther’s own prophecy “will come to pass, as it
has already come to pass “in many lands, “that there may be no more
pure public preaching, “and in that time, the
Gospel will be preserved “only in the houses by
pious Christian parents. “These will find the hymns of Luther “to be of great service and benefit. “May God grant his blessing and grace “that they may use them well “for admonition,
instruction, and comfort.” The Lutheran hymnals, and the
domestic piety the supported, were thus central to Lutheran
lay identity and independence. The use of the hymns in the
home to teach and to comfort were a key and enduring
manifestation of Luther’s idea of the universal priesthood,
a kind of radical democratization of spiritual
power, which, remarkably, as even the Lutheran
clergy themselves urged, was not inferior in its capacity to the public ministry of the Word. The final performance this evening is of a 1542 hymn which Luther
wrote expressly for children, “Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,” “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word.” Unlike some of Luther’s hymns, which run to unexpected, at
least to modern expectations, lengths of as many as 16 stanzas, (audience laughs) “Erhalt uns, Herr” is
short, in three stanzas, with a simple melody
based on Gregorian chant. It was intended to be ideal
for use in the household, perhaps especially as a kind
of evening prayer and blessing. Yet, like so much Lutheran music, this text and its melody
crossed boundaries between private and public, when, in 1566, the canter Johann Walter
published it in an ambitious six-part polyphonic
setting for school choirs, a kind of testament to his own lifetime of collaboration with Luther, he described it as Luther’s final hymn. Now, though Walter’s description
is slightly inaccurate, chronologically, later
Lutherans like Walter did see it as something of Luther’s
musical last testament. Among Lutherans of the later
16th century, this hymn, even more than “Ein feste Burg”, became a mark of identification, not only in times of relative safety but especially, perhaps,
under persecution. Singing it became an act
of political rebellion in contexts where civil
authorities were trying, in the late 16th century,
to suppress the Reformation. The setting we will hear tonight, with an organ prelude, followed by a simple choral setting, and finally a lengthy,
complex instrumental setting by the 17th century composer
Dieterich Buxtehude, embodies the ways in which simple hymns, familiar to protestant
laity of the 16th century, could travel between the
devotion of the household and works like Buxtehude’s
of high musical art, weaving together a musical
tradition that still echoes when we listen to the music of Buxtehude or of Johann Sebastian
Bach, or in the singing of Christian congregations
throughout the world, who, in languages and with
instruments that Luther had never dreamed of,
still sing Luther’s hymns. (musicians tuning instruments) (“Erhalt uns, Herr, bei
deinem Wort” by Martin Luther) (choir sings in foreign language) ♫ Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word ♫ Curb those who fain by craft and sword ♫ Would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son ♫ And set at naught all He hath done ♫ Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known ♫ For Thou art Lord of lords alone ♫ Defend Thy Christendom that we ♫ May evermore sing praise to Thee ♫ O Comforter of priceless worth ♫ Send peace and unity on earth ♫ Support us in our final strife ♫ And lead us out of death to life ♫ Amen ♫ Amen ♫ Amen ♫ Amen ♫ Amen ♫ Amen ♫ Amen, amen ♫ Amen (audience applauds)

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