The works of Heinrich Schütz pull believers “out of the depths”
Times of tremendous emotion, cultural despair, or stress are frequently the source of the deepest music. Such were the times of Heinrich Schütz, a noted, if not well-known, composer who lived and worked in Germany from 1585 to 1672.
His contributions to an active age of church music will be recognized at a fall conference and concert at Luther Seminary, St. Paul. “The Music, Life, and Times of Heinrich Schütz” will include lectures and workshops exploring the music of this 17th-century Lutheran church musician; his contemporaries, repertoire, performance practice; and the impact of the Thirty Years’ War. Conference clinicians include David Mennicke, Catherine Rodland, Michael Rogness, and Kathy Saltzman Romey.
David Mennicke said, “The Schütz offering to be performed by the National Lutheran Choir is an extremely sensitive setting of the Word that is brought to life even in this modern era. The music is a new and unusual sound.”
The conference will include a close look at the Musikalische Exequien, written by Schütz as a commission for the funeral of a dear friend. In his choice of diverse musical styles and in his conscious decision to incorporate ecumenical texts and sources, Schütz composed a work that cut across the religious and political divisions of his time and, potentially, ours.
Being aware of the context is important to appreciate what Schütz has to offer, according to Mennicke, choral director at Concordia University, St. Paul. Schütz’s works are useful “in large part because they are simple and accessible to any size congregation.” In the midst of the Thirty Years’ War, Schütz never knew which choir members would be present and which would be off involved in the war.
Mennicke added, “The Schütz offering to be performed by the National Lutheran Choir is an extremely sensitive setting of the Word that is brought to life even in this modern era. The music is a new and unusual sound.”
The National Lutheran Choir performs under David Cherwien’s direction
The unifying theme of the National Lutheran Choir concert following the conference will be “Out of the Depths,” featuring music that David Cherwien, artistic director of the choir, calls “music that arises from difficult circumstances.”
The choir will perform Schütz’s rarely heard Musikalische Exequien, the object of much of the day’s attention. The Twin Cities’ Rose Ensemble will provide the six soloists necessary for this selection.
“To perform a piece like this well, you need singers who understand the style,” explained Jordan Sramek, artistic director of the ensemble, a group specializing in early music. “Although he was German, he wrote in an Italian style. … The singers are required to improvise [so it’s] up to the soloists to ornament it or make it more authentic.”
The concert will also include a set of African-American spirituals, born out of the horrific context of slavery, as well as David Cherwien’s Hear O Israel for chorus, organ, and percussion. Cherwien’s piece embodies the song of the Jewish and Christian faiths, “Hear O Israel: The Lord is one,” yet depicts the tremendous tensions of the modern day Middle East.
The conference is scheduled for February 20, 2010. Registration for the conference begins at 8:00 a.m. and will conclude with the concert by the National Lutheran Choir at 4:00 p.m. Conference registration includes lunch and a complimentary ticket to the concert.
To register for the conference, contact the Master of Sacred Music office at Luther Seminary by phone at 651/523-1612, by email at email@example.com.
For more information, go to www.luthersem.edu/schutz.