Lancaster County’s newest, yet oldest, chamber orchestra – the Lititz Moravian Collegium Musicum – returned from its COVID hiatus to perform a concert of early music on Sunday, February 27 in Lititz. The event took place in the sanctuary of the church to take advantage of the “air scrubber” and opportunity for greater social distancing. Attendance was full and the audience was enthusiastically appreciative! The Collegium, an ensemble of select professional instrumentalists from central Pennsylvania and beyond provided a rare glimpse into a distinctive facet of musical life and culture in early Lititz. They were joined by Millersville University’s Tell School of Music Chorale, the school’s most selective choral ensemble, to perform major choral works of John Antes, Johann Gottlieb Naumann, and Johannes Herbst. See the full printed program below:
The early American Moravians who settled in Lititz in the mid-18th century are recognized today for the strong musical tradition they brought with them from Europe. Originally founded in the 1760s, the Collegium provided an opportunity for a group of equally empowered individuals to share common goals and work within a framework of mutual trust and respect. The Collegium Musicum provided an opportunity for accomplished musicians to rehearse and perform for practice, entertainment, and enlightenment, yet the Collegium also satisfied the settlement’s continual desire for leisurely music making. Current Lititz Archives Committee member Tom Wentzel adds, “It’s hard to believe and fascinating to imagine that this level of musical expertise and performance was taking place right here in Lititz, which at that time was remote and essentially an untamed wilderness.” The ensemble was the core of what would become the Lititz Philharmonic Society and the Lititz Band in the mid-19th century.
The all-new Lititz Moravian Collegium Musicum was established in 2018 to perform live concerts of newly edited repertoire from the church’s manuscript collection dating from the mid-18th– and early 19th-centuries. According to artistic director and conductor, Dr. Jeffrey Gemmell, “our musical time machine prepared yet another launch and undertook an exciting artistic journey to explore our distinctive manuscript collection and discover the depth and variety of unique musical worlds!”
This most recent concert included works selected from the Lititz Collegium Musicum Collection, stored at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA. Genres and styles found in the collection vary greatly, which is reflected in the repertoire chosen for the concert. Larger works for the full orchestra included Overture I by C. F. Abel, composed in 1761, and Symphony No. 1 in D Major by G. A. Kreusser. Pieces for wind instruments then in vogue called Parthien or Harmoniemusik, written for five to eight instruments (usually clarinets, bassoons, and horns), were represented by a Collauf’s distinctive Parthia, which is unique to our collection. Smaller chamber pieces included a trumpet and organ duet by Henry Purcell, a clarinet duet by Grenser, secular duets by brothers Peter and Samuel Grosh, 19th-century members of the Lititz Congregation, and the “Allegro” from Quartetto I for flute, violin, viola and cello by F. A. Hoffmeister. Ample opportunities were provided for the audience participation through the singing of early Moravian hymns accompanied by organ and orchestra.
A “Museum and Archives Moment” featured a show-and-tell of string instruments currently on display that were built by John Antes (1740-1811), including the very first viola made in early America. The viola was played by concertmaster MaryLee Yerger to that the audience could experience its beauty; the music of John Antes was also performed to demonstrate his skill as a composer as well.
Tickets were $15 per adult and $5 per student sold at the door beginning at 6 p.m. the evening of the concert. The Lititz Moravian Mission Gift Shop was open before and after the event, and the Archives and Museum welcomed visitors after the concert. Donations/memorial contributions for the concert are welcome and should be sent to the Lititz Moravian Church Office (checks may be made payable to “LMCM” and identified as such on the front of the envelope). For more information, refer to the church’s website at www.lititzmoravian.org or Facebook Lititz Moravian Museum.
Please enjoy the following videos from the concert:
C. F. Abel: “Overture I” from Six Overtures in Eight Parts, Op. 1
J. F. Grenser: “Duetto IV” from Six Duos Pour Deux Clarinettes
G. A. Kreusser: Sinfonia No. I in D Major, op. 1
R. Collauf: Parthia 3
Hoffmeister: “Allegro” (Quartetto I) from Quatre Quatuors
Grosh Brothers: Selections from New Sacred Music
Choral-Orchestral Selections: (1) J. G. Naumann: “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied” from Der 96. Psalm; (2) J. Antes: Go, Congregation, Go! and Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs; (3) J. Herbst: Hallelujah! Lasst uns singen.