Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lutheran Catholicity

In my teaching in Congo, the musicians there learned several chorales, from EIN FESTE BURG to O DASS ICH TAUSEND (used for "By Grace I'm Saved" and 3-4 other hymns in LCL). We also learned a couple of African hymns - hymns that have become popular in the US that are Lutheran hymns from Tanzania. I'll post a video of the Congolese joyfully singing "Ecoute L'Appel de Dieu" (Listen, God Is Calling) on my next post. It is more of what one would "expect" from an African church choir.

But first, consider this: What Wondrous Love Is This, or "O Merveilleux Amour". Not originally a Lutheran hymn, but one we have adopted from the Sacred Harp tradition. I knew the words would touch the hearts of the singers in Congo, even as the modality and even the shapes of the phrases would be new for them. I heard several of my new friends sing this hymn later, after practice.

As I explained to them, we in North America sing some hymns from Africa, from Latin America, and from Asia, as well as from many different parts of Europe. Similarly, even as I encouraged them to always sing their beautiful African hymns and to continuing writing their own music for the psalms and spiritual songs of the liturgy, I told them that their singing of music from other parts of the world was a way in which they could be unified with their fellow Lutheran Christians throughout the world.

With that explanation, I introduced to them "What Wondrous Love Is This?", a beautiful love song to God extolling Him for all He has done for us in Christ Jesus. Being a Sacred Harp melody, it is from the American South, where I have my roots. So I told them this was a song from my homeland, and that just as we in Illinois will be one with them as we sing "Listen, God Is Calling" or "Jesus est le même" (my favorite Congolais chanson), so they can think of their brothers and sisters in the US whenever they sing "O Merveilleux Amour".

I think I'll just call this idea "Lutheran Catholicity". It is important that our "kernlieder" or chorales be sung throughout the world - most importantly because of their theology and then because of the sturdiness of the Lutheran Chorale tune in supporting the text. But also so that our churches throughout the world share a common set of core hymns and embrace not only our heritage but each other in song.

It's clearly something they want to do in Brazzaville:

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