Reformation Day 2018 at FLC will be a feast for the ears throughout the day. The organ prelude to the Divine Services at 8am and 11am will be a chorale fantasy on the tune of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” written by the eminent Lutheran musician Michael Praetorius. Every phrase of the melody is given treated expansively in succession, abounding with elaborate ornamentation and figuration. The only exception to this successive treatment of each phrase is with the melodies for the phrases “Now means deadly woe / Deep guile and great might.” These are treated simultaneously, which brilliantly highlights the fact that they are almost mirror images of each other: the first ascends by step, and the second descends by step.

The Gospel lesson will be flanked by the one-stanza hymn “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage.” It was written in 1817 (the 300th anniversary of the Reformation) by the Danish pastor Nikolaj Grundtvig to function as a fifth, concluding stanza of Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” We will sing it both to the tune in Lutheran Service Book, written by Dr. Martin Luther College professor Friedrich Reuter especially for Ole Belsheim’s English translation, and to the tune Grundtvig would have heard, the isorhythmic version of “A Mighty Fortress.”

At the 11am Divine Service, the choir will add motets by Johann Walter (the first Lutheran kantor) and Ludwig Senfl. Senfl’s motet on the text Non moriar sed vivamtakes as its basis the text of Psalm 118:17 (“I will not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”). Martin Luther took great comfort in this text, and had it inscribed with its plainsong melody on his wall in Coburg castle. Luther composed a motet on this text, likely in Coburg castle in 1530, while the Diet of Augsburg took place nearby. At this time he also exchanged correspondence with the composer Ludwig Senfl, who was present at the Diet and who sent Luther his own motet based on the same antiphon. While Luther, merely an amateur composer of polyphony, assigned the antiphon to the tenor voice throughout his brief motet, the more accomplished Senfl places the antiphon successively in each voice, starting from the top and going down, and more fully capitalizes on its polyphonic potential.

At 3pm organist Jonathan Wessler will play a Reformation Hymn Festival, details of which can be found at the link. All are invited to First Lutheran this Sunday to celebrate this important moment in the life of the Church with the Gospel in music!


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