Reformation Hymn Festival

On Sunday, October 28 at 3:00pm, First Lutheran Church will hold a hymn festival celebrating great hymnody of the Reformation era. FLC’s Minister of Music Jonathan Wessler will preside at the stunning Richards, Fowkes & Co. Baroque organ in FLC’s balcony, upon which the chorales and chorale-based organ music of the Reformation are perfectly at home.

The organ at the Jakobikirche in Hamburg, where Weckmann served as organist
The Jakobikirche in Hamburg as seen in 1830

The central feature of the hymn festival will be Matthias Weckmann’s setting of the chorale Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, which we sing in English as “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.” Weckmann was the brightest light of his generation, weaving together every stylistic element of the age into a single virtuosic composition conveying the reality of justification by grace through faith. The seven stanzas of Weckmann’s setting will be interspersed between all fourteen chorale stanzas written by Paul Speratus, sung by the congregation. Note that Lutheran Service Book only provides ten stanzas—the remaining four treat the so-called “new obedience,” detailing how good works follow saving faith, and ending with a two-stanza paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Rarely does a congregation get the opportunity to sing all fourteen stanzas of this seminal Lutheran chorale.

Many Reformation-era chorales speak to the physical danger from the armies of the Pope and the Ottoman Empire, drawing parallels with the spiritual danger expressed in the Psalms. Thus, we will sing two relatively unknown Psalm paraphrases by Martin Luther: “O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold” and “If God Had Not Been On Our Side,” both of which attest to this spiritual and physical warfare. The former will be introduced by a chorale prelude by Johann Nicolaus Hanff, and the latter by an improvised chorale fantasy.

The festival will be bookended by two well-known chorales by Luther: “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” and FLC’s Senior Pastor Ingo Dutzmann will offer a meditation. All are invited to attend this wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Reformation and its rediscovery of the Gospel.

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