bullet Conference Papers


Selected Abstracts for papers read at the October 2000 Moravian Music Conference
celebrating the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano
and commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf


C. Daniel Crews (Moravian Archives, Southern Province)
Zinzendorf's Hymns: Theology In Song

When Moravians answer the question "What do Moravians believe?" we turn naturally to the hymnal first. Our hymns are the most frequent and characteristic expression of our beliefs, and that was true in the Ancient Unity as well as in the Renewed Moravian Church. Added to our hymns are the anthems, mostly composed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which comprise what we usually mean by "Moravian music." Whether in hymns or anthems, though, our doctrine tends to be sung more than spoken.

This is an idea that would set well with Zinzendorf himself. "Zinzendorf insisted that the truest language for heart religion is song...For Zinzendorf and the Brudergemeine... the truths of the Christian religion are best communicated in poetry and song, not in systematic theology and polemics." (Craig Atwood, Blood, Sex, and Death: Life and Liturgy in Zinzendorf s Bethlehem, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1995, p. 136f.) We should recall that the Moravian Church was reborn in a worship service (remember August 13th?), and that its most characteristic worship service became the Singstunde. This is a service consisting almost completely of hymns, in which stanzas from various hymns are woven together to develop a particular theme of the day or event. No sermon was needed, for the Singstunde itself was a "sermon in song." Over the years, the Singstunde and the related Liturgical Hymns developed into the liturgies we use today, but lately we in America are beginning to appreciate the pure Singstunde form again, a gift which the Continental Province never forgot. Note too that a lovefeast service is actually a Singstunde with a simple meal included, and that our Moravian form of Holy Communion is really a Singstunde including the Sacrament.

Zinzendorf produced a huge number of hymn stanzas for the many Singstunden in which he and the congregations participated, often composing these stanzas "off the top of his head." Many of these were not preserved, but several thousand of his hymn stanzas have survived. In many of these Zinzendorf produced works which form a worthy part of the continuing worship of the congregations, and after all, worship is at the core of the congregations' life. We often find here Zinzendorf at his best, for he has a way of coming up with a text that employs and touches both the head and the heart. That is, he deals with theological concepts which call for the employment of reason, as his Lutheran background would lead one to expect, while at the same time joining this with that very Moravian "heart religion," which simply rejoices in the near presence of the Savior who gave Himself for us and the changed living that this brings: a best of both worlds. This study will examine several of these in detail, including some in comparative translations.

It is in the production of hymns and religious texts for worship, and the music to accompany them, that the influence of Zinzendorf continues most vitally in the Moravian Church today. From the eighteenth century to the present, Moravians have produced an amazing repertoire of hymns and sacred vocal works which give vivid expression to the faith we believe.


C. Daniel Crews (Moravian Archives, Southern Province)
& Nola Reed Knouse (Moravian Music Foundation)
Nothing If Not Consistent: Moravian Ideals, Moravian Music

Moravian music does not exist in a vacuum. The distinctive qualities which we celebrate in the study and performance of the music of the Moravians, especially of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries -- simplicity, straightforwardness, well-crafted artistry which is neither virtuosic nor simplistic, dedication to clear communication of the text -- came about as the result of the Moravians' commitment to clearly-acknowledged spiritual values. The study of Moravian music must take these ideals into account.

This paper, presented jointly by a theologian/historian and a musician, identifies several of these values which were an essential part of Moravian life and thought in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Included in the presentation are hymns by Zinzendorf highlighting each particular ideal, discussion of its implications in day-to-day Moravian life, and suggestions as to the effect each one had on the development of Moravian music composition, performance, and particular customs. Examples of these compositional techniques and customs are illustrated by reference to specific compositions.

The values to be discussed include the following:

• simplicity and "stillness" "heart religion" of devotion to the Savior community and fellowship, rather than emphasis on individuality
• faith which is manifested in works
• sense of being "chosen" but not "exclusive"-that is, everyone is called to be Christian, but not
everyone is called to be Moravian
• evangelism
• looking toward life eternal in the presence of the Savior.

The presentation is anticipated to take about one hour, during which the conference participants will sing hymns and listen to music as well as to the two speakers.


Stewart Carter (Wake Forest University)
Respondent: Robert Schmalz (University of Louisiana – Lafayette)

The Church of the Unitas fratrum (Moravian Brethren) boasts one of the most important musical traditions in America. The historical use of trombone choirs in American Moravian communities, dating from the 1750s, is widely recognized but not fully understood. The most comprehensive study of the Moravian Posaunenchor is Harry Hall's doctoral dissertation (George Peabody College for Teachers, 1967); David P. Keehn's master's thesis (West Chester State College, 1978) offers a thorough treatment of the Bethlehem trombone choir only. Published studies are for the most part brief, out-of-date, and aimed at a popular audience. All of these studies have considered archival documents, but few have considered the early photographs of the trombone choirs in Bethlehem (PA), Lititz (PA), and Gnadenhutten (OH), and none of them has taken into account some forty extant pre-1900 trombones that survive in five Moravian related collections in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. (Herbert Heyde's article on the Schmied family of instrument makers in Perspectives in Brass Scholarship, 1997, lists a few of the trombones in Moravian collections, but does not comment on their use within the context of Moravian communities.)

The present study is the first comprehensive examination of the Moravian trombone choir in America that considers the full range of surviving source material, including the instruments. It delineates an important chapter in the history of the trombone, comprising the earliest systematic use of the instrument in North America as well as one of the earliest systematic uses of the instrument by amateurs.


Peter Vogt (Boston University)
"LORD GOD! by us be blest": The Moravian Te Abba in the 1759 Litany Book

As discussed with some members of the program committee, I would like to propose for the upcoming conference a presentation that deals with the intersection of Zinzendorf's theology and Moravian music practice in Moravian liturgies. More specifically, I would like to introduce this topic to the conference both with a lecture during the scholarly sessions and with the actual re-enactment of a liturgy as a devotional unit in the program. For this purpose, Dr. Alice Caldwell and I are in the process of reconstructing the litany "Te Abba" (Zinzendorf's version of the "Te Deum"), using the text of the 1759 English Litany Book and Christian Gregor's 1784 Choralbuch. We have selected this litany because of its location within the larger tradition of the "Te Deum" genre, its representational character of Zinzendorf's theology, and its suitability for a short devotional unit.

The lecture will serve to introduce the Moravian liturgical tradition and the 1759 Litany Book, to reflect on the text and theological content of the litany "Te Abba", and to comment on the music and performance practice.

The litany itself, which could be celebrated at the "Saal" in the Gemeinhaus, will be presented in a way that consciously seeks to bridge the past and the present by exploring possibilities of 18th century performance practices, yet in a worshipful manner. The concrete arrangements and the possibility of other participants will need to be discussed.


Dianne M. McMullen (Union College, Schenectady, NY)
J.A. Freylinghausen's Geistreiches Gesangbuch of 1704 and its Influence on Christian Gregor’s Choralbuch of 1784

This paper is a study of the relationship between Christian Gregors Choralbuch of 1784 and Freylinghausen's Geistreiches Gesangbuch of 1704. Gregor's chorale book played an important role in Moravian liturgies both in Europe and in America. Freylinghausen's Geistreiches Gesangbuch, published in Halle, had 19 editions through 1759, an unprecedented record in the history of German Lutheran hymnody outside of Cruger's well-known hymnal of the seventeenth century. Hymnal editors from nearly all of Germany borrowed from its pages. Among them was Johann Sebastian Bach, for the so-called Schemelli Gesangbuch of 1736. Christian Gregor was, no exception.

The first part of this paper will contain a brief history of Freylinghausen's Geistreiches Gesangbuch. Its history is important to an understanding of the history of German hymnody, including the Moravian tradition. Immediately upon its publication Freylinghausen's work stirred up a controversy, one that contributed to the intensity of other debates raging at the time between the Lutheran Orthodox and Pietists. Specifically, the Orthodox theologians objected to some of the hymnal's contents on both textual and musical grounds. They maintained, for instance, that certain texts were not Scriptural and even contradicted Lutheran dogma. Most of their criticism about the music was aimed at hymns with dance-like qualities, as they perceived them. I will show briefly why it is that the Pietists, who adamantly forbade dance even in secular settings, printed dance-like melodies. In fact, these melodies belong to a different tradition, and the Pietists apparently did not think they sounded like common dance rhythms.

The second part of the paper will examine Gregor’s Choralbuch in light of Freylinghausen's hymnal. Gregor's borrowings from Freylinghausen were done in a selective manner. He accepted some melodies without reservation, while he rejected others. Still others he modified. Through performance at the keyboard of pieces from Freylinghausen's hymnal and from Gregor’s chorale book, I will shed new light on Gregor’s compilation.


Nola Knouse (Moravian Music Foundation)
Issues in Editing Moravian Music

Over the fifty years since Moravian vocal music came to the attention of scholars and musicians through the work of editors such as Hans T. David and Clarence Dickinson, and through the succeeding work of the Moravian Music Foundation, music editing as a scholarly discipline has undergone significant evolution. From the middle of the twentieth century, when editors were expected to correct "mistakes", to the more recent collected editions of C.P.E. Bach and others, the assumptions have changed dramatically. Moravian music editions have certainly seen the results of these changes over the years, and it is one of the major responsibilities of the Moravian Music Foundation to provide leadership and guidance to scholars working with the music in the Foundation’s care, especially the sacred vocal works written by Moravians.

The paper will explore some of the issues an editor can expect to confront in working with Moravian vocal works. The need for this exploration became apparent during the Third Bethlehem Conference on Moravian Music, in the panel discussion on the state of research in Moravian music, where the Foundation's Music Editorial Policy was a significant topic of discussion.

Issues to be discussed include the following:

• the problem of multiple "versions" of a piece
• texts and translations (rhythm, meter, rhyme, "singability," and faithfulness to the "sense" of the original language)
• "edition" or "arrangement"? The genesis of the Moravian Music Foundation's Editorial Policy
• keys, transposing instruments, keyboard reductions o sources for researchers


Jewel Smith (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music)
Malthaner Pianos at the Moravian Young Ladies' Seminary in Antebellum Bethlehem

The piano played an important role at the Moravian Young Ladies' Seminary in antebellum Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Of the musical arts studied at the Seminary, the piano was the most popular. An examination of Seminary expense journals, invoices, and receipts reveals that pianos were most often purchased from Moravian piano makers in Bethlehem and non-Moravian manufacturers and proprietors in Philadelphia and New York City. These included Emilius N. Scherr, an immigrant from Austria who settled in Philadelphia, and New York makers James Pirsson and Steinway and Sons. Apparently most of the instruments were square pianos, since only occasionally is there mention of the school owning a Flugel (or grand) piano. A comparison of various pianos used at the Seminary reveals significant developments in nineteenth-century piano building.

While the Seminary purchased some pianos from non-Moravian builders, most instruments were obtained from local manufacturers, such as John C. Malthaner. Emigrating from Germany to New York in 1828, Malthaner moved to Bethlehem in 1837 and established a piano-manufacturing firm that became widely known. The Seminary not only purchased many of his pianos, but also employed him as a technician for over twenty years. From the time the school began to purchase Malthaner pianos in 1846, his instruments were procured more frequently than any other. Malthaner kept pace with the most current advancements in piano building, as evinced by his instruments. By 1865 his overstrung, seven-octave piano included a five-year warranty and was highly praised by principal Francis Wolle for its excellency of tone. At this time the Seminary owned nearly twenty Malthaner pianos. This study documents the construction of two extant Malthaner pianos and focuses on the importance of his pianos and technical skills employed at the Seminary.


2000 Paper Topics

Return to Music








Updated: 7 September 2005

return home