Moravian Music Festival
This page is designed for churches and media outlets to provide information to disseminate; to assist in providing background and context for the Festivals.
About the Festival
The most-ever-connected Festival will include a robust menu of music, opportunities, and sessions. For both the adult and children/youth programs, the music introduced during the 2021 sessions will be carried forward to the 2022 sessions.
^ One Festival Over Two Years
This summer (2021), we will gather to share and learn about Moravian music, without the limits of time and place.
The Festival Planning Committee and Moravian Music Foundation staff have been working to re-imagine a Festival, in July of 2021, with a wealth of online content and connectivity: both live-streamed and pre-recorded – concerts, rehearsals, workshops, lectures, lessons, master classes, social events, round tables, collaborations, and much more, with special content and activities for youth and children!
[ please see the Children and Youth pages for specifics about the ACTS musical theater production ]
Since we will not have the usual opportunities for concerts and recitals, in-person, the 2021 Festival will be more focused on learning and sharing.
Then in July of 2022, the Festival Committee is optimistically making plans to convene a shorter in-person Festival in Bethlehem, PA for live performances of some of the music learned the previous summer. More details to come.
^ Public Concerts
No Tickets Required.
Festival concerts have always been shared with the community.
Since, this year, the Festival is online, links to the concerts are shared within the listings and descriptions of each concert.
^ History of the Festivals
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.
^ The Moravian Musical Heritage
Moravian excellence in music dates back to the beginnings of the Renewed Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Germany, formed in 1723. These early Moravians, made up of followers of Bohemian Protestant reformer, Jan Hus, began to write hymns specific to their theology and expressing their heart religious devotion to the Savior. The Unitas Fratrum had emphasized hymns in native languages and education for all brothers and sisters. They established schools, following Moravian Bishop Jan Amos Comenius’s leadership and education always included music. Thereby, skilled musicians and composers enriched the worship and community life of Moravians from the beginning.
When these German Moravian settlers arrived in America, they established Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz in Pennsylvania. When the Wachovia tract was purchased in 1753, they began to plan on a much larger scale, building Bethabara, then Bethania, before carving the town of Salem out of the wilderness, and forming congregations at Friedland and Friedberg and Hope.
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 some of the first string instruments in America and Brother David Tannenberg was the first American organ builder. Br. Antes also composed the first chamber music written by an American. Brother Johann F. Peter wrote the earliest known chamber music in America.
The list of Moravian composers is over 50, and still increasing. Some names to note and/or research:
John Antes Christian LaTrobe
Johann Christian Bechler Edward Leinbach
Christian Ludwig Brau Heinrich Lonas
Jeremiah Dencke David Moritz Michael
Ernst Immanuel Erbe J. F. Peter
Johann Ludwig Freydt Simon Peter
John Gambold, Jr. Johann Till
Joh. Gottfried Gebhard Jacob Van Vleck
Christian Geisler Amelia Van Vleck
Johann Geisler Lisetta Van Vleck
Christian Gregor Woldemar Voullaire
Johann Daniel Grimm Peter Wolle
Franz Florentin Hagen Frederick Wolle
Johannes Herbst John Worthington
And prolific hymn-writers:
Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Henriette Louise von Hayn
Frederick William Foster
E. Artis Weber
and so many others
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.
Contact us for interviews or specific questions!
Archie K Davis Center
457 S Church Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
9:30am – 4:30pm
in Winston-Salem: 336-725-0651