The 2013 Moravian Unity Brass Festival was held May 17-21 in the Moravian community of Bad Boll, Germany. This year’s festival, known as “Bläsertag 2013,” was the second Unity-wide gathering of brass players; the first event was in 2007 in South Africa and coincided with the 550th anniversary (1457-2007) of the Unity.
About 350 brass players attended the long weekend (Friday-Tuesday) festival, representing five countries: Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States (my wife, Nola Knouse, and I “represented” the U.S.). This year’s festival was held on Pentecost weekend, with special services on Sunday and Monday.
The congregation of Bad Boll hosted Bläsertag 2013. In addition to being wonderful hosts, their “Festival Committee,” proudly sporting their black tee-shirts (labeled “crew” and translated in several languages) did an outstanding job of directing and executing the event. The schedule was action-packed from Friday evening through Tuesday morning and included an array of typically-treasured Moravian activities: rehearsals, a variety of concerts, a “singstunde,” Sunday worship, a very special communion service on “Pentecost Monday” and, last but not least, great meals and fellowship time.
The first full day of the festival included several rehearsals (imagine the sound you get from hearing 350 brass players all at one time!) and concerts. In the afternoon, a series of “themed” concerts gave participants and listeners a chance to play and hear different types of music, including “King’s Music” in the church park, folk music and even “water music” performed literally in the swimming pool (brass instruments can get wet!). On Saturday evening, the South African delegation, about 66 members strong, presented a two-hour program that had everyone clapping and toe-tapping throughout.
Sunday’s activities included morning worship in Bad Boll and afternoon rehearsals. On Sunday evening, the Bad Boll congregation presented “Bunter Abend,” (roughly translated to “colorful evening”) a “lively, fun, joyful evening program.” The show incorporated a talk-show theme, with guests from each of the five countries represented (“George Washington” represented the U.S.), complete with musical presentations for each country. The “Bunter” definitely lived up to its name…it was colorful and fun!
Monday morning was particularly meaningful as everyone shared the Sacrament of Holy Communion in observance of Pentecost. With Bishop Theodor Clemens presiding, the bread and cup were served by clergy and lay persons from each country represented. Familiar hymns were sung in all the languages. The singing left no doubt that you were at a Moravian service!
Monday afternoon, the entire group traveled about an hour to the city of Ulm. There in a magnificent cathedral, all 350 players presented an incredible hour and a half concert. Tourists filled the remaining seats in the packed cathedral. The incredible brass sounds reverberated through the massive church. The events of the day and the weekend concluded with a closing service, when all meditated on the music, events and fellowship of the weekend, while looking forward to the next festival (in 2018; location to be determined).
This trip reminded me once again that we are indeed members of a world-wide Unity, and this gives me great joy. In our individual congregations here, we may not often think very much about being part of a geographically dispersed unity.
We know our local members and congregations but perhaps do not consider that thousands of miles away, there are fellow brothers and sisters doing the same things we are: singing our familiar and favorite hymns, sharing in Holy Communion along with the right hand of fellowship, having lovefeasts and reading the exact same Daily Texts every day.
I cannot adequately communicate my joy when we sang “Christian Hearts in Love United” and the lovely words and notes of “’Tis the most blessed and needful part to have in Christ a share,” all the while being thousands of miles from home.
I realized at Bläsertag that I was home with my fellow brothers and sisters in Germany and other countries. Though I sang in a variety of languages, I knew exactly what I was singing and what I was saying. Moravians may be small in numbers around the world, but clearly we are part of a very special unity, and what a blessing this is! And this blessing is especially sweet when we remember that at the center of it all is Jesus. Our hymn says it well: “Christian hearts in love united…we in him our Lord are one.”
Paul Knouse is Chair of the Interprovincial Board of Communication and a member of Home Church, Winston-Salem, NC. Photos by Paul.