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The Reformation: Music of the Reformation

Newly added

National Lutheran Choir

National Lutheran Choir performing Bach's "Ein feste Burg" and Music if early Lutheran Masters

Hymns created or adapted by Martin Luther

  • A mighty fortress is our God
  • A Saviour unto us has come
  • All glory be to God on high
  • Appearing is the holy day
  • Arise, you beloved children
  • Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice
  • From heaven above
  • God the Father, be our stay
  • I cry to thee, Lord Jesus Christ
  • If God had not been on our side
  • In the midst of earthly life
  • In thee alone, O Christ, my Lord
  • Lamb of God, pure and hly
  • Lord Christ, the only son of God
  • My soul, now bless thy Maker
  • O God, Our Lord, thy holy word
  • O Lord, look down from heaven, behold
  • Out of the depths I cry to thee
  • Praise God the Lord, ye sons of men
  • The day is surely drawing near
  • The Lord is my loyal Shepherd
  • The will of God is always best
  • Today sing the dear Christians
  • Wake, awake, for night is flying
  • We thank God for his Son
  • We thank thee, Lord Jesus Christ
  • When o'er my sins I sorrow
  • Where God the Lord

"In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."- Martin Luther

In the medieval church music had for centuries been sung by trained choirs - ethereal, restrained and strictly regulated (music and choirs, both).  Beautiful, flowing chants evoked a sense of transcendence, mystery, and subdued reverence.  Then came Luther. 

Charismatic and passionate, 30-something Luther encouraged congregations, not just choirs, to sing, poets to write songs “in the language of the people” (everyday “vulgar” German), and, the greatest delight and scandal of all, use popular styles of music in worship.  His pop-tune sounding hymns, including the edgy, syncopated “A Mighty Fortress”, were the Top Praise Songs of his day.  Listen to an hour of Gregorian chant, then switch to the lilting 1-2-3, 1-2-3 dance of “All Glory Be to God on High” and you will have a taste of the audacity and joy Luther brought to folk hymns and church music.  God bless the next 500 years of the noble art of music!

-Dr Linda Borecki

Suggested Readings

Brown, C.B. (2005). Singing the gospel: Lutheran hymns and the success of the Reformation.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (BX 8025.2 .B76 2005)

Leaver, R. (2007). Luther's liturgical music: Principles and Implications. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. (ML 3168 .L43 2007)

Schalk, C. (1978). Key words in church music: definition essays on concepts, practices, and movements in church music. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Academic Press. (ML 102 .C5 .K5 1978)

Schalk, C. (2001). Music in early Lutheranism: Shaping the tradition (1524-1672). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Academic Press. (ML 3168 .S24 2000)


Fraw Musica by Lucas Cranach the Younger

Fraw Musica by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1544)

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