At the market church in Wiesbaden, we heard a brief but beautiful organ concert by the great Hans Uwe Hielscher. As he played “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”, I was teleported back to St. Paul’s Church in Dedham, Massachusetts, where I sang in the choir when I was eight years old.
“Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,/ Holy wisdom, love most bright;/ Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring/ Soar to uncreated light.”
“Through the way where hope is guiding,/ Hark, what peaceful music rings;/ Where the flock, in Thee confiding,/ Drink of joy from deathless springs.”
Heady stuff for an eight-year-old chorister.
As I sat in this inexpressibly beautiful church with my new German friends and thought of all the choruses all over the world singing the works of Bach, I thought, “What a great and wonderful gift to the world is the German tradition of music.” Not just Bach, of course, but Mozart and Handel and Beethoven and all those other great composers.
And we owe this gift in large part to Martin Luther who brought music to the worship service, especially choral music. The door of church in Wittenburg where he nailed his famous theses has been recast in bronze with the text of his manifesto.
And across the top are figures of musicians, and at the center, three choristers just like me.