Around the world, what no singing? We are now into August and still many Churches are closed. Even where they are open for Sunday services there is no singing allowed. What no singing? This is serious. Moravians are known around the world – from Tibet, the Caribbean, North America, South Africa, England, Germany, Scandinavia … I could go on but everywhere you would find Moravians singing – in choirs, congregations – any excuse to give the lungs an airing.
As I have mentioned before, I only moved to the Moravian church at Fulneck a few years ago. One of the first things we noticed was the number of hymns we sing. It is, we soon learned, a great Moravian tradition. During the Lovefeast service and Communion many hymns are sung and part of the Liturgy is also sung.
When we decided to become members, we discovered that as we were accepted into membership we got to choose a hymn for the whole congregation to sing. While this was sung everyone came and shook us by the hand. We had chosen ‘Great is thy Faithfulness’ as that was also sung at our wedding. Here I could mention that for our wedding it was played on an organ that my father helped to restore. At Fulneck it was played on the rather fine organ that had just been restored.
One Sunday there was to be a Singstunde service at Gomersal, the Moravian Church near-by. Basically, this is signing of hymns with just a few words spoken. We soon learned that a this is a great Moravian tradition that is both a vocal and organ-playing challenge, and very uplifting.
Singstunde translates as ‘hour of singing’. Hymns are fundamental to the Moravian Church. Back in 1501, the Moravians were the first Protestant Church to publish a hymn book, with 89 hymns. It is thought that Count Zinzendorf wrote more than 2000 stanzas in his lifetime; as I write that I wonder how many verses Bob Dylan has written. Strange putting them in the same sentence but both appreciate the power of music and of singing. As Moravians moved out across the world, they were keen that local people could join in the singing, hence many hymns have been translated into a whole range of languages.
For more information about the Fulneck organ please visit this page:
… and now you can listen to it … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB0lLSTcbN8
s it all started in Herrnhut, here is a link to a recent Singstunde in Herrnhut. I am including this for a number of reasons. On his recent radio programme, Bruce Springsteen said that he believes the virus will encourage a rise in spirituality and that when the virus is defeated church bells will ring out.
On this link you can hear a church bell ringing. Also, it reminds us of the challenges of a choir having to be socially distanced. If you fancy practising singing in German, this offers you the chance!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNaxSR6nGxI ..theFulneck service on Sunday 2 August. As you know, no singing. Hence we all sat there, masked and silent, while Revd Michael played this hymn (thanks to Spotify) sung by King’s College Choir. As the doors were open the passers-by on their Sunday morning walks would be able to hear. At the end of the hymn he commented that they may have walked on saying to each other ‘what good singers they are at Fulneck’!! This is true of many, who are members of the District Moravian Singers, but certainly not all and I put myself firmly in the latter group.
And finally, a personal indulgence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk
However, it was chosen by the next new member joining at Fulneck and I know a few other members for whom it is a favourite.
I started these articles back in March as we went into strict lockdown this is number 8 of ‘Trumpeting our Traditions.’ The world is moving on, slowly, and yet still the future seems uncertain. However, it is time for me to call a halt to these articles for now. I hope to return in the coming months to celebrate particular Moravian traditions and significant changes at Fulneck as we once again open up to welcome all, be it to Church, for tea and cakes or to visit the museum. And of course, next year we sincerely hope to be able to invite you all to our Heritage Open Day.
Till then, keep safe. Mary