Grace Lutheran Church and School in River Forest, Illinois, is celebrating 500 years of the Reformation in several ways, not the least of which is through music. The Fall of 2017 is full of music that celebrates the best of the Lutheran musical heritage, particularly the work of Luther himself.
On September 10 at 4:00 p.m. Grace’s Cantor, the Rev. Michael D. Costello, performed works based on chorales. The program began with Costello chanting Luther’s German translation of the Magnificat to the ninth tone (or tonus peregrinus), followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fugue on the same, BWV 733. This was followed by Mendelssohn’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 65, No. 2, which is based on Martin Luther’s chorale on the Lord’s prayer, Vater unser im Himmelreich, and two large-scale settings of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: first, a partita by Costello and, second, Max Reger’s Fantasy on the chorale, Op. 27. A quiet change in the program was a setting of Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, O Herr (Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart) by Johann Nepomuk David before the recital concluded with Lionel Rogg’s impressive partita on Luther’s chorale Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein (Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice).
On September 24 at 4:00 p.m. Grace’s 47th year of Bach Cantata Vespers got underway with Bach’s cantata based on Luther’s hymn for children, Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (“Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word”). The prelude to the service at 3:45 p.m. was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major for three violins, three violas, three cellos, and continuo, BWV 1048. The service also included Benedictus Ducis’ motet on “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” and congregational hymn singing. The Rev. Lauren Dow Wegner, Associate Pastor at Grace, was the homilist.
On October 8 at 4:00 p.m. a group of sixteen singers from Chicago Choral Artists will sing Heinrich Schütz’s Der Schwanengesang (Swan Song) under the direction of Michael D. Costello. Der Schwanengesang is a double-choir setting of Psalm 119, Psalm 100, and the Magnificat, all using Martin Luther’s German translations. Tickets are available for this event at chicagochoralartsts.com or at the door.
On October 15 at 4:00 p.m. a festival of hymns called Around This Reformation Year will take place with leadership from the Grace Senior Choir, Grace School 5–8 Grade Choir, Joyful Voices Choir, Brass, Percussion, and Organ. Settings of Lutheran chorales for each season of the church year will be preceded by commentary from Grace’s pastors. The hymn festival will open with comments by Dr. Carl F. Schalk, member of Grace and Professor Emeritus at Concordia University Chicago. The festival will conclude with a new setting of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Grace’s Cantor, Michael D. Costello. A free-will offering will be gathered.
On Reformation Sunday, October 29, Grace will hold festival services of Holy Communion at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Grace’s Senior Pastor, the Rev. David R. Lyle, is the homilist. Music will include Grace’s 5–8 Grade Choir at the 8:30 a.m. service and Grace’s Senior Choir at the 11:00 a.m. service. Both services will include music for brass, organ, and percussion.
The Bach Cantata Vespers on October 29 centers around Bach’s cantata on Luther’s chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”), BWV 80. The prelude to the service will be Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 107 (“Reformation”), will begin at 3:30 p.m. The symphony concludes with Mendelssohn’s extensive use of Luther’s Ein feste Burg. The service will also include Martin Luther’s short motet Non moriar sed vivam (“I Shall Not Die, but Live”) and two hymn concertatos composed for this jubilee year, one by Carl Schalk and the other by Paul D. Weber. Schalk’s concertato is based a new tune, which accompanies well Jill Peláez Baumgaertner’s text “Praise the One Who Knit Us.” Weber’s concertato is based on his own text and tune, “God’s Only Son, the Word Alone.” The homilist for the service will be the Rev. Dr. Mark A. Granquist, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. A free-will offering will be gathered to support the Bach Cantata Vespers ministry.
The November 19 Bach Cantata Vespers is based around Philipp Nicolai’s beloved “King of Chorales,” Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying”). The prelude to the service at 3:45 p.m. is played by Grace’s Cantor, Michael D. Costello, and includes Bach’s chorale prelude on Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (“Savior of the Nations, Come”), BWV 661, and Hugo Distler’s Partita on Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Op. 8, No. 2. The service will also include Brahms’ motet on the chorale O Heiland reiß die Himmel auf (“O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide”), Op. 74, No. 2, and congregational chorales “Savior of the Nations, Come,” and “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You.” The homilist for the service is The Rev. Amy Gillespie of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lombard, Ill. A free-will offering will be gathered to support the Bach Cantata Vespers ministry.
While other chorale-based cantatas will be presented throughout the remainder of the year at Grace, the final point of our Reformation 500 celebration this fall is a concert of the St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor) from Leipzig, Germany, under the direction of Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz, on Monday, November 20, at 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.) The program consists of music by Bach, Mendelssohn, Schütz, and Schein. Tickets are available at ticketor.com/grace or by calling 708-366-6900.
The wider community is welcome to share in these Reformation worship and music events.
Michael D. Costello, Cantor of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL