In July, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania came alive with music as the 24th Moravian Music Festival came to town.
For seven days, singers, musicians and music lovers from around the country (and the globe!) braved the summer heat of Bethlehem for a week of workshops, rehearsals, concerts and more. In Central Moravian Church and on the south campus of Moravian College, participants played, sang and appreciated the broad scope of Moravian music.
“The 24th Moravian Music Festival is now a memory for the 300-plus participants, the 150-plus volunteers and Festival staff and hundreds of others who attended the concerts and worship services,” says the Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse, director of the Moravian Music Foundation. “The singing still rings in our ears, and the spirit of brotherly and sisterly love still warms our hearts. And many have already expressed their eager anticipation of the 25th Moravian Music Festival to be held in Winston-Salem in another four years!”
The Festival opened on July 14 with an ecumenical lovefeast, “When In Our Music God Is Glorified,” The lovefeast, the first ever to include elements from all three full-communion partners, featured a choir comprising local Moravian, Episcopalian and Lutheran singers with music from each of the three faith traditions (see story on page 20).
Throughout the week, festival-goers participated in and listened to concerts of Moravian and other music of faith, including the first-ever modern performance of the Easter Cantata by Ernst Wilhelm Wolf. “The music was wonderful!” says Nola. “Our ears are ringing with the glorious sounds of the 100-voice choir at the opening lovefeast; of Rebecca Kleintop Owens’ amazing organ recital (how can anyone chair a Festival and perform an 80-minute recital in the same week?); of Tim Zimmerman and the King’s Brass; of the Festival soloists, chorus and orchestra; of the Festival band; of pre-concert brass preludes; of chamber music, handbells, trombone choir and congregational song. The joy of making and hearing music with so many brothers and sisters lives in our hearts long after traveling home.”
The week also featured a variety of music workshops, including ones on vocal and instrumental technique, Moravian music history, introductions of new songs to congregations, music in worship and more.
And since Moravian music is all about praising God, each day began with devotional services led by Moravian bishops.
For many, the week offered an opportunity to practice their love of music. Daily rehearsals for choirs, bands, orchestras and handbell choirs helped festival-goers hone their skills and prepare for evening concerts that showed off their abilities. Festival leaders Dr. John Sinclair (orchestra and choirs), Allen Frank (band), Don Kemmerer (trombone choir), Jan Harke (handbell choir), Joni Roos (chamber music) and John Wallace and Myra Jones (children’s program) each brought their groups to concert readiness in a very short period of time.
New for this Music Festival was the inclusion of a children’s program. Led by the Rev. John Wallace of Dover, Ohio, the children rehearsed and presented “Irene: The Musical,” an original work that includes renditions of Moravian music favorites and new music to tell the journey of Moravian missions around the world. Irene was performed to a standing-room-only crowd in Foy Hall.
The festival came to a close on Saturday, July 20 with a closing Singstunde featuring the Festival Handbell and Trombone Choirs and Festival Chamber Ensembles. Along with Moravian “classics,” the Singstunde featured new Moravian music from Sing to the Lord A New Song: A New Moravian Songbook introduced this summer. Each music festival participant received a copy of the new songbook as part of their registration.
“Our hearts remain full with the gratitude that words can’t fully express, the thanks due to everyone who made this week-long celebration of music, worship and fellowship the smooth-running event that it was,” says Nola. “We’re especially grateful to Central Moravian Church—for their unfailingly-helpful, gracious, smiling staff; their welcoming pastors; their tireless volunteer members who helped to staff the information center, care for children, stuff registration bags, carry boxes, assist at workshops, give directions … the list of tasks is endless, and the hospitality that all the Moravians in Bethlehem showed boundless.”
The next Moravian Music Festival will take place in Winston-Salem, N.C. in 2017.
Comments from 2013 Music Festival-Goers
“This was my first Festival and it really was a life-changing experience.”
“The devotions in the morning truly set the tone for each day and reminded me of why I was at the Festival.”
“Faith through music is a blessing for me.”
“Thank you—is not adequate—but there are not words to describe the work of the Spirit in this place.”
“I’m impressed by the talent and the wide range of skills and interests. A foretaste of heaven!”