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Composer of the Month: Johann Crüger

Johann Crüger (1598–1662) was a seventeenth-century German Lutheran composer whose influence dwells richly in Lutheran Church music even today. He studied music across Europe as a teenager and eventually settled back in Germany, where he studied theology in Wittenberg and became cantor at St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) in Berlin. He served there for forty years until his death.

During his life as a church musician, Crüger produced dozens of Lutheran chorale tunes. Among his most famous work in today’s Church is his collaboration with German-Luther hymnwriter Paul Gerhardt in the final twenty years of Crüger’s life.

Develop a Music-Making Culture at Home

Music-making doesn’t have to be serious. It can also be hilarious.

If you teach music in any capacity, think about the times it has most brought a smile to your students’ faces. For me, it’s when ridiculous silly songs and silly voices are used. Take for example the song about the tree in the wood. You know the one: “The nest was on the branch and the branch was on the tree and the tree was in the hole and the hole was in the ground …” Even my most reticent third graders will break into a giant grin and start singing heartily when that song is in the lesson plans for the day. They think they are just having a good time. I know that they are learning to sing and to love music.

Composer of the Month: Sandra Eithun

Sandra Eithun has composed dozens of handbell and piano compositions for CPH Music, most recently “Four Communion Hymns for Twelve Bells.” This collection continues a series of handbell music written for twelve bells, joining books with Advent, Christmas, and Easter themes. She also serves as the Director of Music Ministry at First Congregational United Church of Christ in New London, Wisconsin, a position she’s held since 1992. She is the organist for the congregation, accompanies the vocal choir, and directs three handbell ensembles. 

Four Instrumental Pieces for Thanksgiving Worship

Thanksgiving is approaching, and it’s likely that you or your music director and worship team have started planning for Thanksgiving services. If you’re looking for music to add a bright, festive note to your worship, or if you’re looking for pieces to include your choir or handbell teams, look no further. The organ, choral, and handbell selections below work well in a variety of settings, both for in-person worship and for recorded or live-stream online services. For additional inspiration, check out the Thanksgiving Music Playlist!

Music of the Month: Let All Things Now Living

“Let All Things Now Living” gets a lively calypso setting in this arrangement, which expresses the excitement of the text. A more tranquil, hymn-like second stanza leads back to a dance-like ending. The tune THE ASH GROVE is used with many texts, including “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing,” making this a useful arrangement throughout the Church Year. Level II.

Why Classical Music is a Gift

“Mrs. Greenway,” a first grader asked me yesterday, “do we ever listen to any Early Age composers?”

In our school, each music class concludes by listening to a piece of art music (generally known as “classical” music). We learn about one composer and one composition written by that composer every week. Each composer falls into one or two of the following categories: Early Age, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, or Modern Day.

Composer of the Month: Martin Franzmann

Not unlike many American Lutherans in the upper Midwest, Martin Franzmann (1907–76) was the son of a Lutheran pastor. Born and raised in Minnesota, Franzmann continued his undergraduate and seminary education in Wisconsin and ultimately taught at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Reformation’s First Lutheran Hymns

This excerpt is from “The Reformation and Lutheran Confessionalism to 1620” by Christopher Boyd Brown. Read the entire essay and learn more about the Reformation and its impact on Lutheran worship in Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns

Music of the Month: O Rejoice! 25 Hymn Introductions for Organ

Are you in need of some fresh and innovative music for Sunday morning worship? Bring creative variety to your hymn playing with these artistic hymn introductions for organ. Some of these introductions explore the hymn tune in full, while others use only a portion of the tune. All of them set the tone for the hymn and prepare the congregation to sing.

Handbell Guidelines for Sundays in a Pandemic

If you are a church musician, especially a handbell ringer, the last time you practiced was likely months ago. Or maybe your church is slowly allowing ringers and choirs to play again, albeit under irregular circumstances.