Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation, and Three Centuries of Conflict

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How important was music to Martin Luther? Drawing on hundreds of liturgical documents, contemporary accounts of services, books on church music, and other sources, Joseph Herl rewrites the history of music and congregational song in German Lutheran churches. Herl traces the path of music and congregational song in the Lutheran church from the Reformation to 1800, to show how it acquired its reputation as the "singing church."

In the centuries after its founding, in a debate that was to have a strong impact on Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries, the Lutheran church was torn over a new style of church music that many found more entertaining than devotional. By the end of the eighteenth century, Lutherans were trying to hold their own against a new secularism, and many members of the clergy favored wholesale revision or even abandonment of the historic liturgy in order to make worship more relevant in contemporary society. Herl paints a vivid picture of these developments, using as a backdrop the gradual transition from a choral to a congregational liturgy.

The author eschews the usual analyses of musical repertoire and deals instead with events, people and ideas, drawing readers inside the story and helping them sense what it must have been like to attend a Lutheran church in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Parallel developments in Catholic churches are discussed, as are the rise of organ accompaniment of hymns and questions of musical performance practice. Although written with academic precision, the writing is clear and comprehensible to the nonspecialist, and entertaining anecdotes abound.
Appendixes include translations of several important historical documents and a set of tables outlining the Lutheran mass as presented in 172 different liturgical orders. The bibliography includes 400 Lutheran church orders and reports of ecclesiastical visitations read by the author.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For specialists in Lutheran music, the extensive appendices, which include information on hymn sources, translations of select writings, tabulations regarding choral performances versus congregational singing, and the liturgy as discussed in local Kirchenordnungen, should provide substantial scholarly resources." — Renaissance Quarterly

"Joseph Herl has done a masterful job of assembling and analyzing sources that relate to choral and congregational singing in Lutheran churches of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries (with some coverage of the nineteenth century). Herl has searched out both the primary and secondary sources, read them with discrimination, brought together a wide array of relevant detail, and analyzed it very carefully. He has made a welcome addition to the literature, partially by giving so many sources, but also by pulling them together in a well-researched manner with clarity and context." — Notes

"He [Herl] has approached his work not only with the historian's eye for detail and amusing anecdotes, but with a profound understanding of the theology that underlies Lutheran liturgy...In short, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism is a must read book for Lutheran liturgists and musicians alike, and for anyone else who wants 'the rest of the story.'"—Cross Accent

"Herl has searched out both the primary and secondary sources, read them with discrimination, brought together a wide array of relevant detail, and analyzed it very carefully. He has made a welcome addition to the literature, partially by giving so many sources, but also by pulling them together in a well-researched manner with clarity and context.... What we have here is a responsible and welcome addition to the conversation, with a large supply of source materials to help get at it."—Notes

"A concise, engaging examination of the history of music in the Lutheran Church from the beginning of the Reformation through the 19th century. Highly recommended."—Choice

"It will, no doubt, remain the definitive study on this subject for many years to come." —The Hymn

"In his rigour and energy Herl sets a standard for further work on later periods, or on other strands of Lutheran sacred music." —Early Music

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195154399
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Herl is assistant Professor of Music at Concordia University, where he teaches courses in music history, music theory, and church music. He has also published compositions for choir and organ.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Luther and the liturgy in Wittenberg 3
Ch. 2 Catholic liturgy - Lutheran liturgy 23
Ch. 3 The church orders : an introduction 36
Ch. 4 Choral and congregational singing in the church orders 54
Ch. 5 Ecclesiastical visitations 69
Ch. 6 Congregational hymnals 87
Ch. 7 Choral music versus congregational singing 107
Ch. 8 The organ and hymn singing 130
Ch. 9 Performance practice 152
App. 1 Sources of German hymns 181
App. 2 Translations of selected writings 193
App. 3 Choral versus congregational singing in the mass 205
App. 4 The mass according to the church orders 215
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