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The 25th Moravian Music Festival

Winston-Salem is known as the city of arts and Innovation and is widely revered for its quality of music. The excellence in music dates back to the beginnings of the Wachovia tract, a settlement of the German Moravian settlers who had already established Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz in Pennsylvania. They first built Bethabara, then Bethania, before carving the town of Salem out of the wilderness.

In Bethabara, they imported the first organ to NC. A set of trombones was sent soon after. The Wachovia Moravians entertained, with instruments and singing, visitors such as Governor and Lady Tryon in 1767 and later, President George Washington. In Bethlehem, travelers such as Benjamin Franklin commented on the fine music present in the everyday lives of the Moravians.

These accomplished musical Moravians did not seek accolades or approval from the public, but wanted to offer the best music in praise to their Savior, Jesus Christ. Excellent music, singing, playing enhanced the worship experience and was valued as a gift from God, not praised for the achievement of the musician. With the exception of some instrumental music, the text is of utmost importance and the instrumental parts serve only to enhance the message. This approach survives today in the practice of Moravian composers and musicians.

Brother John Antes made one of the first violins in America and Brother David Tannenberg was the first American organ builder. Brother J. F Peter wrote some of the earliest chamber music in America. Br. Antes also composed the first chamber music written by an American.

These Moravians continued writing music for worship and for pleasure throughout the nineteenth century. Into the twentieth century, men and women in the Moravian church have written countless songs, hymns, hymn texts, anthems, organ works, orchestral music and music for bands and various instrumental ensembles.

Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, scholars and musicians discovered a veritable treasure trove of music in the archives of the Moravian Church in America – manuscripts, early printed music, much of it in German. As they explored more, they were awestruck at the quantity of music, and the variety of composers – those known to be Moravian, and those known in wider musical circles.

Working with American-born and trained conductor, Thor Johnson (son of a Moravian minister and native of Winston-Salem, NC), a group of clergy and laypersons in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, decided to hold an Early American Moravian Music Festival and Seminar, in Bethlehem, on June 26-July 2, 1950.

Since then, the Moravians have planned and hosted 23 more Festivals, and in 2017, will host the 25th Moravian Music Festival in Winston-Salem, NC.

Every four years, the Moravian Music Foundation (MMF) sponsors a week-long music festival to celebrate Moravian music, explore the history of Moravian music, to teach and share, and to explore new avenues and directions in music. Next summer, July 23 – 29, 2017, the 25th Moravian Music Festival will attract hundreds of musicians to Winston-Salem, NC, and be centered among Home Moravian Church, Salem College, and Old Salem.

Hundreds more will attend and enjoy the many performances of both new and historic Moravian music in concert venues at Home, Trinity, and Calvary Moravian churches, as well as Winston-Salem State University’s Williams Auditorium.

The Festival is for everyone, serving musicians of all levels, from beginner to director.

All are invited to come and be a part of this exciting week of musical growth, spiritual nourishment, and joy-filled fellowship, in an historic and beautiful Moravian settlement.

Advance registration is required. Online registration (and, a wealth of information) is available at  Festival registration packets are available by mail or printed from the website. Housing will consist of Salem College options and blocks of rooms at area hotels. There will be options for full meal plans or daily meals on campus. There is an extra fee for registrations after June 1.

Replete with workshops and lectures, Moravian Music Festivals are a learning opportunity for singers, instrumentalists, and directors (Moravian and non-Moravian). They are full of practical ideas, skills, and techniques for the musician, the musical group, and the congregation.

Concurrently, there will be a children’s summer music program, a youth program, special young adult events, and an organ crawl! Participants will choose tracks for choral, wind instruments, and/or handbells. Each day will be comprised of workshops and rehearsals for ensembles, handbells, orchestras, and lots of singing, with special moments for worship, fellowship, and reflection. Each evening will begin with a band prelude, and culminate with featured concerts by the Chorus and Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Chamber music ensembles. The Festival will also have an Anthem Sing, a Singstunde, a Lovefeast (of course), and a partnership concert with the Salem Band.

The concerts will be free and open to the public, and we hope you will join us. Audiences will experience a wide range of repertoire, from sacred band chorales to contemporary songs; from concert anthems with orchestra to new arrangements for wind ensemble!

One of the greatest benefits of registering for the 25th Festival will be the opportunity to work with wonderful conductors, composers, singers, and instrumentalists, highly acclaimed in their individual disciplines. For the upcoming festival, we are proud to bring in several leading conductors: Dr. John Sinclair, professor of music at Rollins College and Artistic Director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, FL. Chris Wormald, who is one of the most recognized educators and brass band conductors in Great Britain, with countless accolades and awards. In 1991, he started the Smithills School Senior Brass Band and has led them to national and international brass band championships. Anne Saxon will lead the children’s music program. She leads the Winston-Salem Girls Chorus and is President of the NC Chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association. Deborah Rice is a world-traveling handbell director and clinician, and prolific arranger. She is a former president of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. Dr. Donna Rothrock, founding director of the Salem Trombone Choir, for over 30 years, will lead the Festival Trombone Choir. The Rev. Nola R. Knouse, Ph.D. will be Music Director of the Festival. Mary Wilson will be the featured soprano soloist for the week. Ms. Wilson is an internationally acclaimed opera singer and concert soloist and was featured on the Moravian Music Foundation’s most recent recording of the Wolf Easter Cantata.

The first Moravian Music Festival was in 1950. Since 2010, the Festivals have been the responsibility of the Foundation, which has worked well, since the “institutional memory” and artistic planning of music festivals already resided with MMF. The local Festival Planning Committee is a dedicated team of tireless volunteers, who have been working for over a year already, ably led by Scott and Amanda Moody Schumpert.

Each year, the Festival Committee seeks those who value the Festivals and want to encourage participation, especially by younger musicians, by supporting the Festival Scholarship Fund. Donations of any amount are invited. Underwriting sponsorships of concerts and other Festival events are welcome, as well.

The Moravian Music Festival is a unique opportunity to celebrate the musical heritage of this community.


Moravian Music Foundation

 Winston-Salem office at the A. K. Davis Center

457 S. Church St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101-5314       336-725-0651

Bethlehem office at Moravian Archives

41 W. Locust St., Bethlehem, PA 18018-2757         610-866-3340


Rev. Nola Reed Knouse, Ph.D., Director

Gwyneth A. Michel, Assistant Director

Margaret Brady, Office Manager

Erik J. Salzwedel, Business Manager

Barbara Strauss, Catalog Project Manager

David Blum, Project Cataloger