Reformation’s influence reverberates in Bach, Luther concerts

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October 20, 2017

Reformation’s influence reverberates in Bach, Luther concerts

Dr. Michael Moore directs BJUSO and the Chamber Singers in rehearsal for the Reformation Concert featuring David Kim. Photo: Rebecca Snyder

The Reformation Concert with David Kim tonight and the Luther 500 Hymn Fest on Oct. 24 will celebrate the music of the Reformation honoring the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses.

These concerts will highlight  the music of the Reformation and the dramatic and lasting impact the Reformation had on church music.

Martin Luther himself said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

The concerts will celebrate the works of  Martin Luther  and Johann Sebastian Bach who both had close ties to the Reformation.

Before the Reformation,  only priests in the Medieval Church sang worship music.

Sung in Latin, this music was not able to be understood by the average churchgoer.

The Reformers, particularly Martin Luther, introduced congregational singing to churches.

Dr. Paul Overly, a BJU professor of music history and literature, said these changes to church music had lasting effects.

“It was like a musical revolution,” Overly said.

“Any time you sing in church. . .we can credit the Reformation with the development of that.

  “Any time that you have a hymnal in your hands, that’s [because of the] Reformation.”

All of the music in the Reformation concert was composed by J.S. Bach, including two pieces in which Bach used Luther’s tune. 

“You can’t conceive the work of Johann Sebastian Bach without the Reformation,” Overly said.

The concert will feature the entire Bob Jones University Symphony Orchestra  and the Chamber Singers.

Key instruments in this concert will be the organ and the University’s refurbished  harpsichord.

The antique instrument was just recently restored to playable condition by Ed Rea, associate professor of piano, and his team of technicians. 

Orchestra conductor Dr. Michael Moore said three of the four works presented will feature David Kim, a violinist and the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“We have the opportunity to collaborate with one of the greatest Christian artists in the orchestral world with Mr. David Kim,” Moore said.

Moore said the concert will open with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, led by Kim.

The following piece, Bach’s Violin Concerto in E Major, will feature Kim as soloist.

Moore said the second half of the concert will feature  two works based on Luther’s anthem “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”)

The concert will also feature an organ prelude on the Reformation hymn tune, played by senior keyboard performance major Noah Vancina.

Moore said the evening will conclude with selections from Bach’s elaborate Reformation Cantata No. 80 under his direction, with Kim in the concertmaster chair again.

Similar in theme, the Luther 500 Hymn Fest will be a choral performance by the Collegiate Choir under the direction of Dr. Fred Coleman, associate professor in the department of church music.

This concert will consist entirely of hymns that Luther wrote himself or introduced to his congregation.

Coleman said this concert, rather than requiring only passive listening, is an active experience for the audience.

“It’s really not a recital or concert so much as a lecture hymn fest, meaning the people get to sing,” Coleman said.

Coleman said the concert will feature seven of Luther’s hymns. Coleman will share historical background and context before each hymn.

Coleman said the choir will sing the first stanza of each hymn to familiarize the congregation with the tune, then the congregation and choir will sing multiple stanzas together.

“This is in keeping with Luther’s philosophy that the church choir was to teach and assist the congregation in singing,” Coleman said.

The finale will feature “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” arranged by Dan Forest, BJU graduate and former music faculty member and composer of Jubilate Deo.

This arrangement will utilize Luther’s original rhythm for the hymn rather than the one most churchgoers are used to singing.

The Reformation Concert with David Kim and the Luther 500 Hymn Fest are the first two concerts featured in the Museum & Gallery’s Reformation Concert Series. The Concert Choir will present third and final concert in this series on Oct. 27.

“We are happy to partner with the Museum & Gallery to celebrate this momentous annversary,” Moore said.