Pro-Motion Music has joined in the decade-long celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The celebration, culminating in 2017 with a year of festivities, is also being celebrated annually from 2007-2016 with a specific theme. The 2012 theme was Music and the Reformation.
David and I were privileged to travel to the seat of the Reformation, Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, Germany, last August (2012) where I performed organ concerts in historic Reformation churches: the Schlosskirche where Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door; and the Stadtkirche, Luther’s preaching church. To celebrate the Luther Decade Year of Music, I performed organ settings of Luther chorales from the Renaissance to the present day on the historic Ladegast organ at the Schlosskirche and on the Sauer organ at the Stadtkirche.
These concerts were enthusiastically received by not only the many tourists, but the local population as well. One poignant comment by the sexton of the Stadtkirche stands out: “It was wonderful to hear Luther’s chorales again here in Luther’s church. Thank you for playing this glorious music.”
With that comment fresh in our minds, we decided to release a recording of the music performed in these concert, thus, adding to the celebration of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The resulting CD is The Chorales of Martin Luther, otherwise known as the Top Tunes of 1524!
As Luther so eloquently wrote, “Music is a fair and lovely gift of God.”
Click here to start your new year with a new CD!
Last year I was invited to perform two organ concerts in Wittenberg, Germany–one at the Schlosskirche and the second at the Stadtkirche– as part of the Luther Decade celebration. Discovering that the theme for the 2012 celebration was The Reformation and Music, I began planning the my concert programs to reflect that theme.
I thoroughly enjoy putting together themed programs. I feel an audience can relate to the music of an organ concert more easily if there is an overarching theme and not just a series of unrelated pieces. With that in mind, I decided to use the chorales and texts of Martin Luther as the basis for the concerts.
Jeannine at the Schlosskirche with the Ladegast organ in the background
Because the tower of the Schlosskirche is ringed with opening words of Luther’s most famous hymn, “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott,” I decided to begin and end the concert at the Schlosskirche with organ arrangements of that chorale–the first a fanfare-like arrangement by Jan Bender and to conclude, the powerful arrangement by Max Reger. Completing the concert were contemporary settings of other Luther chorales.
Sauer Organ at Wittenberg’s Stadtkirche
The second concert of the week was performed at the Stadtkirche, the church where Luther often preached, was married, and his children were baptized. Playing the Sauer organ, I continued the theme of music based on Luther chorales with the “Fantasia super Komm Heiliger Geist” by JS Bach as the centerpiece. Chorale settings by other Baroque composers completed the program.
The thrill of performing settings of Luther’s chorales in the Schlosskirche and Stadtkirche during the Reformation and Music Year of the Luther Decade was enormous.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist
The next leg of our Germany Recording Tour took us to Wittenberg (Lutherstadt), Germany where I was scheduled to play a concert on the Ladegast organ at the Schlosskirche. It was with great excitement what we drove into this historic city to meet Thomas and Sarah Herzer, Kantors of the Schlosskirche and Luther Seminary.
The tower of the Schlosskirche can be seen soaring above the skyline of Wittenberg with the words “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” encircling the crown of the tower. We were definitely in Luther-land! The door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) is where Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses in 1517. Inside the door of this famous church is where I met Kantor Thomas Herzer.
After a brief tour of the church and the Ladegast organ, I was given the keys to not only the organ but this grand church. We were now free to come and go as we liked for the next 12 hours, to practice and record for as many hours as possible. After being shown to our room in the equally as historic Luther Seminary building, also from the early 1500s, we made the walk back to the castle church–walking the same route Luther walked between his home and the Castle Church. This area retains its 16th century charm and was a lovely walk on a cold moonlit night.
We spent several hours at the Ladegast organ practicing and choosing music for my concert, Orgel Punkt, the following day. The 4-manual, 57 rank mechanical action organ was built by Ladegast in 1864 and restored and expanded by the Eule firm in 1994. I chose a varied 30 minute program consisting of all Bach–the G Major Fantasie, Chorale Preludes on “Wachet Auf,” “Nun freut euch,” “Sei gegrusset” and the great St. Anne Fugue. We stayed late into the night to practice and record and enjoy the sound of this marvelous instrument in this tremendous space.
(I recorded several pieces for our CD, “Bach and Sons” at the Schlosskirche including the Pedal Exercitium by JS Bach, Chorale Prelude on “Jesus, My Great Treasure” by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and the Sonata in g minor by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach. The CD is available at Pro-Motion Music. Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.