The FLC choir adorns the liturgy with music, primarily during the 11:00am Sunday Divine Service. The choir also sings occasionally at the 8:00am Sunday Divine Service, at important feasts and observances such as Epiphany, Ascension, and Maundy Thursday, and for special events such as Vespers services and the Boston Bach Birthday. Small ensembles of one to three singers, perhaps with continuo accompaniment, also sing more regularly at the 8:00am Sunday Divine Service. The choir rehearses on Thursday nights from 7:00 to 8:30 in the FLC balcony. Prospective members are always welcome to join: just contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
First Lutheran Church operates what is known as a “liturgical choir,” as opposed to the “anthem choir” that predominates American church music. The choir historically plays an important, prescribed role in the Divine Service: singing the propers, supporting the singing of the congregation, and elevating the hymn of the day with choral elaboration. In the 18th century, the choir also sang a large composition (a cantata) before the sermon, a tradition FLC continues at its festival Divine Services on Easter. And at Vespers, the choir is given to lead the singing of the Psalms and to sing the Magnificat. The FLC choir delights in fulfilling its role in the liturgy to the glory of God and to the edification of the faithful.
Cantata “Wir danken dir Gott,” BWV 29 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Because music is the viva vox evangelii (the “living voice of the Gospel”), and because God’s gifts of music and the arts were given that we might use them for our enjoyment and to beautify His creation, it is only appropriate that we use the very best music the Church has produced throughout her history in the liturgy. To that end, the choir’s repertoire is drawn predominantly, though not exclusively, from the best contributions of Lutheran composers of the 17th and 18th centuries such as Johann Walter, Michael and Hieronymus Praetorius, Ludwig Senfl, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, Johann Adam Gumpeltzhaimer, Hans Leo Hassler, Orlando de Lassus, and of course Johann Sebastian Bach. This style of music is reinforced by the Baroque tonal design of FLC’s organ, which lends itself perfectly to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century polyphony of the Lutheran tradition.
But since the Lutheran liturgy is simply the Mass received via tradition in the Western Church (as the confessions state, Lutheranism is simply historic Christianity and does not deviate in any article from what the universal Church has taught throughout the ages), it follows that music composed for use in other liturgical traditions can also find use in the Lutheran church. Therefore, the choir also sings motets by non-Lutheran composers such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Luca Marenzio, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Jacob Handl, Heinrich Isaac, John Sheppard, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, and Henry Purcell. The choir also sings a healthy dose of Gregorian chant as received and used by the 16th-century Reformers.
While the FLC choir predominantly focuses on this “golden age” of liturgical music, outstanding examples of sacred music were produced in every century. The choir also sings good music from later eras by Lutheran composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Hugo Distler, and non-Lutherans such as Johannes Brahms, César Franck, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger, Healey Willan, Jean Berger, Everett Titcomb, and John Tavener.
FLC’s ensemble-in-residence, Canto Armonico specializes in sacred music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Drawing its personnel from the many fine music schools and professional musicians in the Boston area, Canto Armonico varies in size from 14 to 26 singers plus instrumentalists depending on the repertoire at hand. The ensemble’s Artistic Director, FLC member Cheryl Ryder, leads compelling, structured performances with liturgical significance roughly three times per year.