Above: Relations and Influences–A Useful and Partial Guide
Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor
JOHN WORTHINGTON (NOVEMBER 3, 1725-MARCH 12, 1790)
British Moravian Minister and Composer
JOHN ANTES (MARCH 24, 1740-DECEMBER 17, 1811)
U.S. Moravian Instrument Maker, Composer, and Missionary
BENJAMIN HENRY LATROBE, SR. (APRIL 10, 1728-NOVEMBER 29, 1786)
British Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer
CHRISTIAN IGNATIUS LATROBE (FEBRUARY 12, 1758-MAY 6, 1836)
British Moravian Composer
PETER LATROBE (FEBRUARY 15, 1795-SEPTEMBER 24, 1863)
British Moravian Bishop and Composer
JOHANN CHRISTOPHER PYRLAEUS (APRIL 25, 1713-MAY 28, 1785)
Moravian Missionary and Musician
AUGUSTUS GOTTLIEB SPANGENBERG (JULY 13, 1704-JULY 18, 1792)
Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer
This post is an outgrowth of a research project I call Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, the Prologue to and Part I of which I have posted at BLOGA THEOLOGICA. Having read them (especially Part I) will improve the comprehension of this material. Reading and note-taking for Part II (scheduled to cover 1735-1848) are in progress. In fact, work on this project overlaps with that effort.
Recently I wrote names out of a wonderful book, The Music of the Moravian Church in America (2008), Nola Reed Knouse, Editor. More recently I started taking notes on one man–John Worthington, whom I had penciled in for consideration for a slot on November 3 on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days. His biography led me to another person, which led me a third, et cetera. The process ended with seven saints sharing one post. I could have made it at least eight or nine, but a reader absorbs enough details without the author going further into the material in this post. But, just in case you wonder, O reader, I plan note-taking sessions on Christian Gregor and Frederick William Foster, numbers eight and nine, respectively. At the heart of the web of relationships and influences on which I focus in this post is a family tree. This fact ought to remind one of the importance of family in nourishing and continuing the faith. There are also three people outside the family tree yet crucial to the story I am telling. This reality ought to remind one of the importance of other human relationships in influencing people, hopefully for the positive.
Perhaps the best way to commence the historical narrative is with Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg (1704-1892). Some sources among the Moravian books I consulted gave his first name as Augustus, some as August, and others as both, depending on the page. He is, for my purposes, Augustus, which sounds properly Germanic. Spangenberg was, of course, German, from the state of Saxony, to be precise. (Germany was a cultural, not a political, designation prior to 1871.) He, the son of a Lutheran minister, studied theology at the University of Jena starting in 1721. He taught at Halle in 1732-1733 then became a Moravian at Herrnhut, on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) near Berhtelsdorf, Saxony. Spangenberg became a trusted aide to the Count.
Spangenberg was a foundational figure in the Renewed Unitas Fratrum (1727-). He traveled the world on church business, even leading a group to settle in Georgia in 1735. The Georgia mission (1735-1779) was never successful. Disputes internal and external (with the Lutherans at Ebenezer) contributed greatly to the Savannah Moravians’ troubles, but the domestic politics of the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1748) made matters worse. Georgia was a military colony on one of the borders between the British and Spanish Empires. The Georgia Moravians, being pacifists, refused to take up arms against anyone–especially the Spanish enemies. (Governments tend to dislike people who refuse to fight the enemy.) Most of the Moravians in Georgia left for Pennsylvania in 1740. There, the following year, they founded the settlement of Nazareth. The second Moravian mission in Georgia, by the way, was to Native people. It started in 1800 and ended with Indian Removal in the 1830s.
Spangenberg traveled widely on Moravian Church business after 1735. In the late 1730s alone his itinerary included Pennsylvania and St. Thomas. And, in 1742, he founded the first Moravian settlement in England. Spangenberg, back in America, became the bishop for North America in 1744. He left for Herrnhut in 1762 to sit on the Church’s governing council and help to stabilize the denomination in the wake of the death of Count Zinzendorf (1760). Spangenberg retired in 1791 and died the following year.
Spangenberg, known for his compassion, left a written and musical legacy:
- His writings included The Life of Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (three volumes, 1772-1774; English translation, 1838) and the Exposition of Christian Doctrine (1782, English translation, 1784, by Benjamin Henry LaTrobe, Sr.).
- In 1744 the bishop founded the collegium musicum at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This, according to my specialized sources, was his greatest musical legacy. A collegium musicum is a small musical ensemble which fills a variety of functions. It educates its participants, fills time which they might spend otherwise in dubious pursuits, provides wholesome entertainment, and serves a function in worship. These roles were like circles in a Venn Diagram for, as a Moravian ethic says, all of life is liturgical. The original collegium musicum formed at Herrnhut in 1731. The early composition of the Bethlehem collegium musicum changed over time. It started with horn players, added trumpeters the following year, and came to include a harpist and a violinist in 1752. There were fourteen members in 1748. The original leader was Johann Christopher Pyrlaeus (1713-1785), to whose story I will turn in this post.
- Some early organ music of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum (1727-) was elaborate. Spangenberg considered this to be in bad taste and about virtuosity, not worship. He encouraged excellent musicianship focused on glorifying God, not the performer. As the bishop told a young church organist, Christian Ignatius LaTrobe (1758-1836), son of Benjamin Henry LaTrobe, Sr., “Keep it simple.”
- Spangenberg composed hymn texts. Among them were “When Simplicity We Cherish” (1740), “What Can We Offer Thee, O Lord” (1734), “High on His Everlasting Throne” (1737), and “The Church of Christ, Which He Hallowed Here” (1745).
Johann Christopher Pyrlaeus (1713-1785) studied music as a young person. Then he studied theology at the University of Leipzig while Johann Sebastian Bach was there in town. At Leipzig Pyrlaeus encountered Moravians and converted to the Unitas Fratrum. That connection brought him to America–Pennsylvania, to be precise.
Pyrleaus had an eventful time in America. In 1742, while Count Zinzendorf was serving as a Lutheran pastor in Philadelphia, Pyrlaeus worked as the Count’s assistant. On one memorable Sunday in 1742, in fact, a drunken crown even drove Pyrleaus from the pulpit. From 1743 to 1751 he served as a missionary to Native peoples, becoming the first Moravian musician to do so in the future United States. Pyrleaus, a capable vocalist, organist, and instrumentalist, also translated many hymns into Mohican. He also, at the request of Bishop Spangenberg, organized the first Moravian Indian-language school in the future United States. And, as I have established, Pyrlaeus (from 1744 to 1751, when he returned to Europe) led the collegium musicum at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He also provided early music lessons to John Antes (1740-1811).
John Antes was a son of Johann Heinrich (Anglicized as John Henry) Antes, the Baron von Blume (1701-1755), who had emigrated from Germany. The Baron, originally of the Reformed Church, came to prefer the Moravian Church in Pennsylvania, so he converted in 1746. Bishop Spangenberg baptized the American-born John Antes, who went on to make instruments, such as harpsichords and violins. In 1759, in fact, he made one of the earliest violins in America. Antes operated his own instrument-making business at Bethlehem from 1762 to 1764 then relocated to Europe for a few years. He settled at Herrnhut in 1764 and moved to Neuweid the following year. His European ventures proved unsuccessful, but he found a vocation as a missionary to Egypt (1769-1781) and an avocation as a composer. Antes, toward the end of his tenure in Egypt (where he also made watches in Cairo), mailed a copy of his Three Trios to Benjamin Franklin, then an American diplomat in Paris. Antes, the earliest American composer of chamber music, nearly died of torture at the hands of Ottoman imperial officials. The part-time composer returned to Europe, where he spent the rest of his days, in 1782. He was at Herrnhut (again) in 1782-1783. Then, from 1783 to 1785 Antes served as the business manager of the congregation at Neuweid. He filled the same role at Fulneck, England, from 1785 to 1808. He died at Bristol, England, three years later.
Some of his music has survived. Antes wrote the Three Trios, of course, but also more than thirty sacred vocal works. The Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969) contains six of his hymn tunes. Unfortunately, a set of his quartets is lost to history, to be best of human knowledge. Hopefully they will join the ranks of music considered lost until someone identified a copy in a library or a collection somewhere.
Antes had a sister, Anna Margaretta (Anglicized as Anna Margaret) Antes (1728-1794), who married Benjamin Henry LaTrobe, Sr. (1725-1786), father of the aforementioned Christian Ignatius LaTrobe (1758-1836). Benjamin, Sr., a bishop in South Africa, served as a mission secretary and as a Provincial Elder from 1768 to 1786. He also wrote and translated hymns. He wrote, for example, “Jesus’ Name, Jesus’ Name” (1789). Antes also translated a German text by his contemporary, Christian Gregor (1723-1801), a foundational figure in Moravian Church music, rendering a 1772 text in English as “The Lord Bless and Keep Thee in His Favor.”
Benjamin, Sr., and Anna Margaret had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Two of these were Benjamin Henry LaTrobe, Jr. (1764-1820) and Christian Ignatius LaTrobe (1758-1836). Benjamin, Jr., an engineer and architect, moved to the United States, where he worked on the first waterworks system in Philadelphia, designed interiors (such as the Old Senate and House Chambers) of the rebuilt (post-War of 1812) U.S. Capitol building, and designed the Basilica of the Assumption at Baltimore.
Below: Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland, Between 1980 and 2006
Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16726
Above: Interior, Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland, Between 1980 and 2006
Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-14279
Benjamin, Jr., the father of the U.S. architectural profession, died of yellow fever in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1820.
I will turn to Christian Ignatius LaTrobe shortly.
John Worthington (1725-1790) came under the positive influence of Benjamin, Sr. Worthington, as a boy, sang in a choir at Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) in his native Dublin, Ireland, until his voice changed. Then he turned to gambling and to singing in coffeehouses (not that coffeehouses, where alcohol was absent and people met to discuss topics such as politics and philosophy, seem like disreputable institutions to me) before Benjamin, Sr., himself a musician of great renown, hired him as a music teacher. Worthington converted to the Unitas Fratrum and became a minister, serving at Fulneck, England, in the 1750s, at Ockbrook, England, from 1769 to 1777, and finally at Dublin, Ireland, where he died. He composed music, which Christian Ignatius LaTrobe observed, had a reputation for “simplicity and elegance.”
Christian Ignatius LaTrobe (1758-1836), educated in Germany from 1771 to 1778, taught at the Moravian school at Niesky from 1779 to 1784. LaTrobe worked from London for many years, administering Moravian missions. He retired in 1834, moved to Fairfield (near Manchester), and died two years later. That was his life in broad strokes.
LaTrobe’s other great contribution was musical. He, who knew luminaries such as Franz Joseph Haydn, was, at the time, the only Moravian Church composer with a reputation outside the Unitas Fratrum. LaTrobe composed music for both the Moravian Church and the Church of England. Works for the latter were more complex than those for the former. As Bishop Spangenberg, in Europe from 1762 to 1792, had advised the young LaTrobe, who was once a church organist, “keep it simple.” LaTrobe composed and arranged works for SATB choir, organ, strings, bassoon, oboe, and piano forte. There were also “secular” (a term with less meaning in the Moravian Church than in other denominations), such as three piano sonatas, which he dedicated to his friend, Haydn.
LaTrobe’s volumes for the Moravian Church included:
- Hymn Tunes Sung in the Church of the United Brethren, Collected by Chrn. Igns. LaTrobe (1775);
- Hymn Tunes Sung in the Church of the United Brethren (1790); Moravian hymnals of the time had words only and church musicians used the tune books);
- Selection of Sacred Music (six volumes, 1806-1826), as Editor;
- Anthems for One, Two, or More Voices Performed in the Church of the United Brethren, Collected and the Instrumental Parts Adapted for the Organ or Piano Forte, Composed by Various Authors (1811);
- Hymn-Tunes Sung in the Church of the United Brethren, Collected by Chrn. Igns. LaTrobe; A New Edition Revised & Corrected with an Appendix (1826); and
- Original Anthems for One, Two, or More Voices Adopted for Private Devotion or Public Worship Composed and the Accompaniments Arranged for the Piano Forte or Organ (1828).
There were also nine organ preludes in an appendix to L. B. Seeley’s Devotional Harmony (1806).
LaTrobe also translated hymns into English. Among them was a Christian Gregor (1723-1801) text, which LaTrobe rendered as “In This Sepulchral Eden.”
Among the children of Christian Ignatius LaTrobe and Hannah Benigna Syms LaTrobe (1758-1824) was Peter LaTrobe (1795-1863). The Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923) contains one, “Sweeter Sounds.” Hymntime.com lists two others, “Fairfield” and “Invitation.” The London-born bishop, who died at Berthelsdorf, Saxony, near Herrnhut, the worldwide Moravian headquarters, married twice. His first wife (1825-1839) was Mary Louisa Foster (1793-1839). The second wife (1842-1863) was Jeanetta Margaret Brett, who survived him. Peter’s first father-in-law was therefore Frederick William Foster (1760-1835), a British Moravian bishop (from 1814) and editor of the hymnal of 1801, its supplement of 1808 (and thus the composite 1809 edition) and the revised hymnal of 1826. Peter updated his father’s 1826 volume, publishing Hymn-Tunes Sung in the Church of the United Brethren First Collected by Chr. Ign. LaTrobe; An Enlarged Edition, Arranged in Parts for the Use of Choirs (1854).
These saints, consistent with their Moravian ethos, contributed much via music, whether overtly Christian (as in anthems, hymns, and works of instruments in church) or merely beautiful and composed well. As Philippians 4:8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Edition, 1971) says:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 2, 2014 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION
THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREEMAN BRAGG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST
THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWNLIE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:
Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by their fellowship of love and prayer,
and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.
We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,
and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
—Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726