"Music is a gift of the Holy Spirit, it dispels the devil and makes the people joyful." This is how Martin Luther describes the meaning of music for faith and soul. The "Nightingale of Wittenberg", as Luther was called because of the many songs he had written, highly estimated the singing of the congregation as a "musical proclamation" of the Gospel and the new teachings.
Foundation of the European musical culture
The theme year "Reformation and Music" shall not only be a musical tribute to the eloquent poet and reformer Luther, but also a reminder of the rich treasure of Protestant church music. The world-famous tradition of Paul Gerhardt and Johann Sebastian Bach, but also of Walter, Schütz and Telemann, Fasch and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy – just to name a few – will be nourished and remembered. Also, the St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig celebrates its 800th anniversary in 2012. It can not be overheard that the Reformation has laid a foundation for the European musical culture.
Luther would certainly have appreciated "Reformation and Music" as an annual topic on the way towards the Reformation anniversary in 2017. He himself was an accomplished singer and lute player. In his work as a composer and poet, he transformed the Reformation's teachings into music. His songs, as well as those written by his followers, had much influence on the dissemination of the Reformation.
Singing and making music together
They established a special Protestant tradition of church music. Since then, the – German-speaking – congregational singing is an important part of the church service and its liturgy. It is one of the basic traits of the Reformation that everybody actively participates in the music. Until today, singing and making music together is an especially lively and attractive part of Protestant parish life. The great importance of this culture for musical education, as well as for education in general, must not be underestimated. Luther's appeal for the value of music sounds startingly modern: " Whoever has this skill is of good temperament and fitted for all things. Music must be taught in schools. A schoolmaster must be able to sing, or I would not regard him."
The theme year will be opened at the place where Bach was baptised
On Reformation Day, October 31st, 2011, the fifth theme year of the Luther Decade will be solemnly opened with a festive service, a lecture and a reception in Eisenach and in the church of St. George. Here stands the font where Johann Sebastian Bach was baptised. Young Martin Luther sang carols here.
In order to fill the annual topic with life, individuals and initiatives who locally organise concerts, exhibitions and competitions, are strongly supported by the church, the states and the local authorities. This, too can be described with a Luther quote: "Kings, princes and lords must preserve music; it is appropriate for great potentates and rulers to protect good liberal arts and laws." For Luther, the effects of music were clear: it is the best refreshment for a sorrowful person! Can we have a better wish for the musical year of 2012?"