On Tuesday, February 18, 2020, I delivered a lecture for the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem. The talk is available on the Moravian Archives YouTube channel and embedded here:
Below is the text of the presentation with the accompanying images from the powerpoint presentation that accompanied it.
The inaugural concert of the newly revived Lititz Moravian Collegium Musicum took place on September 9, 2018. Billed as Lancaster County’s “newest, yet oldest chamber orchestra” and inspired to bring our motto, “history you can hear!” to life, selected professional musicians from south-central Pennsylvania and beyond gathered to recreate a unique facet of cultural life in early Lititz. Our goal was for everyone – performers and audience alike – to take a musical journey back to 18th-century Lititz via our new musical time machine. I’d like to show you brief video of the opening moments of the concert, featuring J. C. Bach’s Sinfonia in D Major, which captures the excitement of this maiden voyage. Perhaps, as you listen to this delightful music, you too will be transported to another time and place. Regardless, one can’t help but be impressed that the early American Moravians who performed this repertoire were incredibly skilled and capable musicians.
The inaugural concert met with tremendous success musically, administratively, even financially! Despite poor weather, a large and enthusiastic audience attended the concert and proved that there is indeed an interest in and appetite for the performance of early music in the area. Proud to say that this event was hailed in the New Years’ Eve section of LNP (Lancaster’s local newspaper) as one of the county’s “Top Ten Musical Moments of 2018.” Certainly, all involved with this project were motivated and excited to continue our work together.
We have performed two other concerts since and are rapidly approaching our fourth, which takes place in just over two weeks. This evening, therefore, I would like to summarize some of the research related to the Collegium, share some highlights from concerts in order to breathe musical life into the research, and – in a shameless plug – discuss some of the repertoire to be featured in our March 8th concert, “Beethoven and Friends,” a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth “collegium-style.”
My interest in collegium-related research was inspired while writing a book about the anthems of Moravian pastor, and eventual bishop, Johannes Herbst, composed while he lived and worked in Lititz from 1791 to 1811. During a publishing delay, my editor, Sarah Eyerly, suggested I expand the Preface with more contextual information related to Herbst’s anthems. As I dove into the music history of the Lititz Congregation, the significance of the Collegium Musicum immediately emerged. First, though let’s begin with a general discussion of terminology.
In Europe, Collegia Musica (plural of Collegium Musicum) were associations organized for performance of chamber and chamber-orchestral music in various German towns, especially Hamburg and Leipzig, during the first half of the 18th century. J. S. Bach, for example, was a member of the Collegium Musicum at Leipzig. While at first mainly associated with German universities – hence, their Latin name – they have remained a feature of universities throughout the world to the present day. From 1780 until 1820, it was also very much “en vogue” at the European courts to employ a wind ensemble to perform what was known as harmoniemusik. These groups served as a kind of record player, as they performed arrangements of the popular repertoire of the day, including operas, symphonies, ballet music, and sonatas for piano. And still another kind of collegium musicum, as described by Nola Reed Knouse in her book The Music of the Moravian Church in America (University of Rochester Press, 2008, pp. 189-211) denotes ensembles composed of amateur musicians organized for the entertainment of themselves and their friends. “These groups [reflected] the rising educated middle class and, occupying a ‘position between institutionalized church music and the music of princely courts.'” Hence, the term collegium musicum was not precisely defined and collegia musica differed in size, in social status, in level of musical training and accomplishment, in choice of music, and in the degrees of privacy or public appeal of their performances. In general, though, they all met regularly to rehearse and/or perform in a relatively informal setting, and guests were welcome. (Knouse, p. 190)
Knouse also notes the importance of the collegia musica in Moravian settlement congregations throughout the European continent and beyond and writes “Moravians took with them their choir system, their schedule of daily and weekly worship, and the need for a collegium musicum. Generally, within a very few years of the establishment of a new congregation town, its diary makes mention of the collegium musicum, often associated with the Single Brethren’s Choir.” (Knouse, p. 191)
The Lititz settlement followed this practice closely, as early Moravians who settled the area brought their strong musical tradition with them from Europe. Harold Schurtleff explains this fascinating practice as a “transit of civilization.” In his classic book on American architecture, The Log Cabin Myth, he explains that when “a large body of people possesses a relatively higher culture and move to another distant area inhabited by people of a different and (to the newcomer) less sophisticated civilization, the emigrants attempt to preserve in their new world as much as possible the manners, customs, folkways, language, literature, arts, and crafts of their former home.” Obviously, this “transit of civilization” is evident in just about every socio-cultural facet of early American Moravian life. How many can you name?
According to the Lititz Congregation’s earliest written history by Bishop Mattheus Hehl, “a small music account was set up and a collection taken for instruments, strings, etc.,” in 1768. This is considered the genesis of the Lititz Collegium Musicum. As in Europe, the Collegium provided the settlement’s accomplished amateur instrumentalists the opportunity to rehearse and perform for practice, entertainment, and enlightenment; yet, as fundamental to their faith, these musicians also gathered regularly to enhance worship with music. The dual purpose of the Lititz Collegium thus strengthened the musicians’ skills in order to perform the intricately composed repertoire used in worship services, yet it also satisfied the community’s continual desire for leisurely music making. Such goals related to entertainment and instruction were compatible with the Moravians’ view of music as expressed by Christian LaTrobe and others in their writings. Since there was generally no dividing line between the sacred and the secular – all of life was “liturgical” – Michael Johns explains in his DMA dissertation for Temple University, Collauf and His Contribution to Moravian Music: “activities with no direct spiritual meaning such as practice and performance of secular instrumental music, could be viewed as an endeavor undertaken in the spirit of devotion that ideally marked all aspects of Moravian life. Because labor, leisure, and the sacred were all seen as elements of devotion, instrumental music and song were encouraged and used in all activities and segments of society.”
With time and as society evolved into the 19th century, both in Europe and America, an increased emphasis on “professionalism” led to a shift in terminology: public performances came to be called “concerts” and the performing groups “academies” or “societies” rather than simply collegia. Hence, the Lititz Collegium was the core of what would become, perhaps as early as 1815, the Lititz Philharmonic Society, and even later, the Lititz Band.
The major academic focus of today’s Lititz Collegium Musicum is to research, edit, and perform historic Collegium repertoire from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries; however, we strive to approach this endeavor with energy, enthusiasm, freshness, and an overall quality that promotes a public interest and value that is current, relevant, successful, and accessible to all. In reference to a recent Collegium concert where she shared an “Archives and Museum moment,” the Rev. Nola Reed Knouse, Director of the Moravian Music Foundation, put it best when she said: “one measure of a tradition’s vitality is the new manifestations it generates. This upcoming event shows the breadth and depth of Lititz’s musical heritage, which has never faltered through the centuries but continues in an unbroken line of excellence and joy.” As the founder of the all-new Lititz Collegium and a member of the Moravian Music Foundation Board of Trustees, my goal here is also to actualize the Foundation’s mission: “to preserve, share, and celebrate Moravian musical culture.” I am so blessed to be in this happy synergetic situation!
As most of you know, the Lititz Collegium Musicum Score Collection is housed here in the vaults of the Moravian Music Foundation. Altogether different than Lititz Congregation Collection, which contains music that was meant for use in worship, the Collegium Collection consists of repertoire meant for use outside of worship. I like to think of it as what the musicians played the other six days of the week! Specifically, Collegium repertoire includes larger instrumental and choral works, as well as chamber music for strings and winds, illustrative of the “cutting edge” of European musical culture in this period. Compositions by early American Moravian composers are also found in this collection. Genres and styles vary greatly. Pieces for wind instruments, as mentioned earlier, are well represented and are called Parthien or Harmoniemusik. Instrumentation is typically five to eight instruments (usually oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns). There is also an impressive selection of vocal works.
Most interesting, though, are compositions that feature string orchestra by composers now relatively forgotten, like Carl Stamitz, Paul Wranizky, or Adalbert Gyrowetz. These composers and their works were very popular at the time and set the stage for the modern orchestra and its repertoire. Of course, works by those titans of the period who have now overshadowed all the others and are most familiar to us today – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven – are also well represented in the collection. Our new chamber orchestra specializes in live performances of this repertoire, most of which is not available in modern editions and, therefore, must be newly edited in order to be performed.
Now, you might wonder exactly what is meant by “editing” and what specifically is involved in transforming these fragile antique scores into printed music employed in modern performance? Since our focus in on the authentic musical scores found in the original Collegium Collection – in both hand-copied manuscripts or contemporary published editions – new scores based on the originals need to be faithfully reconstructed. In brief, the process works something like this. First, I use my home computer to search the Gemeinkat database provided online by the Moravian Music Foundation. The entire catalogue for the Lititz Collegium Score Collection is available and accessible online with this tool, which makes it convenient to explore composers and repertoire, choose appropriate titles, obtain the necessary catalogue numbers, and ultimately plan interesting programs.
After forwarding this information to Gwyn Michels via email, who dutifully removes boxes and boxes of scores and places them on a cart, I’ll arrive here in the Moravian Archives Reading Room ready to go! During the typically productive visit, after saying “hi” to everyone and thanking them for their help, I’ll root around the boxes, find what I need, and take pictures of all the scores with my I-Pad, usually departing in the late afternoon with tired fingers from clicking about 700 photos total.
The next step is to enter every single note from each individual part into a Finale file to create a digital full score, from which each part is then prepared carefully for ease of performance – including, for example, adding bowings and articulation marks – and then carefully checking for consistency between parts. Each individual part is then extracted into a separate file for each instrument, hard copies are printed for the musicians and finally, all the music is distributed via snail mail to the entire orchestra. Players receive their scores at least three weeks in advance in order to learn and practice their parts. Remember, the majority of this music is completely unknown and unfamiliar to our musicians – an aspect of this project that they absolutely love, by the way (!) — but which also stresses the necessity of hiring the best instrumentalists possible and trusting they’ll prepare well for the gig!
Along with this musicological and editing work, logistically-speaking, I have a leadership board that assists with the myriad details associated with completing such a project, including, but not limited to, approval from the church boards, contracting and hiring the orchestra, preparing the string parts, working on communication and publicity — including the production of posters and programs by my wife, Julie (thank you, dear!) – all-important fundraising endeavors with members of the congregation and business sponsors in order to support the all-professional orchestra, press releases and interviews, requesting volunteers to prepare and serve the meal etc., etc. Finally, when the much-anticipated concert day arrives, the orchestra typically meets for the first time at 3 PM, rehearses for 2-1/2 hours, enjoys a delightful dinner together, and then presents a concert that evening. The results of this work can be seen in the printed program distributed earlier from our last concert in October.
The typical concert usually lasts about 75 minutes, with a brief intermission, and includes repertoire highlighting the variety of genres included in the Collegium score collection, which we’ll sample in a moment. Organ music is also performed on the 1787 Tannenberg organ — including hymns in which all participate – and perhaps other songs or anthems.
There are other aspects of our performances that are non-traditional in terms of typical “concerts,” yet completely appropriate for traditional “collegium” gatherings. Seating in the round and in close quarters makes for a more intimate connection between musician and listener. Audience members feel as though they’re really a part of the ensemble – they develop a personal rapport with the players – and remain thoroughly engaged with the music. I keep waiting for someone to pick up an instrument and start playing!
An “Archives and Museum Moment of Sharing” satisfies an educational facet of the event, where guest speakers present a “show-and-tell” of sorts to introduce rare instruments found in the Lititz Congregation Museum. Past presenters have included Craig Kridel, our resident serpentist who played the congregation’s serpent horn, and Nola Reed Knouse, who played one of our historic flutes. Both musicians compared the historic instruments to their own modern equivalents, which clearly emphasized how technological advancements through the years have transformed our sonic landscape. The next concert will promote our John Antes viola – the first instrument of its kind made in America – and the Antes cello, which recently spent time here in the room next door. These two instruments are together again: what a match made in heaven!!
Ok, … it’s time to put some music where my mouth is. Let’s see what all of this music we’ve been taking about sounds like.