Germany’s LutherCountry Celebrates Musical Heritage in 2012
Five centuries ago, Martin Luther encouraged ordinary people to join in the singing at church services. He wrote hymns, inspired composers such as Bach, and left a legacy of choral singing that has spread around the world. In Germany’s LutherCountry (a multi-state area in eastern Germany that was frequented by Luther), that musical heritage is being celebrated throughout 2012.
Each of the 10 years leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has a theme, and this year the Luther Decade is all about "The Reformation and Music." That's why Wittenberg's annual Himmel auf Erden (Heaven on Earth) International Music Festival (July 6 to 15) is extra special this year. This summer's theme is "Heaven on Earth: The center of life." Although Wittenberg is recognized as the cradle of Protestantism, this event deliberately focuses on cross-cultural and non-Protestant contributions to music, embracing many languages, many races, many creeds, and colors.
Concerts take place in such settings as Wittenberg's historic City Church and the Old Arsenal to the Castle Church (UNESCO World Heritage Sites), where Luther nailed his 95 Theses back in 1517. Opening of the festivities are the King's Singers, the a cappella, two-time Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble from Great Britain. Works that they are performing are by composers such as Byrd, Phillips, Dering and Schütz.
Other highlights of the program include Nico and the Navigators, who are presenting Cantatatanz, a Bach evening, and Lautten Compagney, the acclaimed early music group from Berlin that is hugely popular across Europe and the U.S. As well as artists from Leipzig and Dessau (in Germany) and Mogilev (in Belarus), there are world-class stars, such as soprano Yeree Suh and violinist Yuki Kasai, who are performing with the renowned Basel Chamber Orchestra. The climax of the week is Misa Criolla at the Town Church. Part of the Projekt CANTO. This is a joint German-Argentine initiative, celebrating two cultures through music.