September 06, 2009

Music pervades Moravian religion, daily life and traditions. Moravians are known worldwide for their music. According to historical records, the Salem Band of Winston Salem is the oldest continuing performing wind ensemble in the United States. The first symphonies in America it is said were organized by Moravians. A Moravian brass ensemble performed a concert during the opening gala at Washington's Kennedy Center in 1971. Nearly every Moravian church in America has a brass band.

Moravians have been enthusiastic composers as well as musicians. Names such as Christian Gregor, Johann Christian Bechler, James Montgomery, Zinzendorf and Johannes Herbst are well known in Moravian musical history. Modern-day Moravians continue to compose for the church repertoire, and hymn-writing continues to be a feature of Moravian worship and witness. In the Eastern West IndiesProvince individuals like Edris Roberts, Denise Smith-Lewis, Patmore Smith, The Moravian Disciples and many others have been producing hymn after hymn for worship. The hymns have a very strong biblical base and at the same time testify of God’s awesomeness.

Music for Moravians has always ranged from quiet melodies for intimate family occasions to grand, fully accompanied performances of intricate choral compositions during worship services. In the early church, musical talent was to be found in every family, where music was a source of entertainment as well as inspiration. Today music continues to be a popular concentration, with band lessons available in many churches.

Music sets the tone for all seasons of the church. For example, the joyous, antiphonally sung Hosanna! is sung on both the first Sunday of Advent and on Palm Sunday. The lead parts of Morning Star, also antiphonal, are usually sung by children, who lead the congregation in the popular hymn celebrating the birth of the Savior at Christmas. The popular hymn, Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice, is a favorite throughout the year, but is sung most joyfully at the communion service.

Moravians love to sing, and in any group you can hear an enthusiastic, intergenerational mixture of melody and harmonious parts. Even the Moravian Blessing before a meal is often sung. One of the happiest occasions in a Moravian church is a "singstunde," or hymnfest. The singstunde or hymnfest can be planned around a particular message, sermon, or theme or held as a general time of musical fellowship and song.

When God breathe into Adam, He gave more than life; He gave a reason to live: Worship! As the Psalmist declares, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord”(Ps.150:6). We can use our breath to speak words of comfort, to sing the songs of Zion in praise to God, and to run tohelp the sick and oppressed. When we use our breath to honour  our Creator with our unique combination of talents, abilities, and opportunities, we will never be wasting it. Continue to use your voice and every imaginable instrument to the glory of God. This is deep in the Moravian Psyche that we should hold on to.