Feast of Johann Christian Till and Jacob Christian Till (November 17)   1 comment

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Above:  Bell Tower, Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, February 1969

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA,48-BETH,2–7

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JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL (MAY 18, 1762-NOVEMBER 19, 1844)

U.S. Moravian Organist, Composer, and Piano Builder

father of

JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL (JULY 15, 1799-APRIL 9, 1882)

U.S. Moravian Piano Builder

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Before I write about the Tills I choose to note that I could have added at least two other people to this post.  Johann Christian Till’s life intersected with those of the Peter brothersSimon (1743-1819) and Johann Friedrich (1746-1813)–talented composers.  The simplest and best plan, I have concluded, is to write about them in a Simon brothers post, which I will link into this entry.  The focus here belongs on the Tills.

The Tills’ story began with the birth of Johann Christian Till at Gnadenthal, near Nazareth, Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1762.  He spent his entire life in the Nazareth-Bethlehem area, yet his musical influence spread as far as Herrnhut, in Saxony.  Till copied choral works for use in church and composed others for the same purpose.  One of his compositions was “Kindhearted and Gracious is the Lord.”  Moravian congregations worldwide performed his music.

Till attended Nazareth Hall, a boys’ school, where he studied under Simon Peter (1743-1819), pastor, composer, and church administrator.  Till supported himself as an adult primarily as a woodworker, with the notable exception of 1793-1808, when he worked as an organist and schoolmaster at Hope, New Jersey.  Then the school closed.  Music remained vital to his life, for he supplemented his income by working as an organist.  He also composed musical settings for Liturgical Hymns (1823).

From 1810 to 1834 Till and his son, Jacob Christian Till (1799-1882), derived most of their income from the family business of building pianos.  When this partnership started Jacob was eleven years old!  The father build the piano cabinet and the son constructed the mechanisms.  They were skilled craftsmen.  Unfortunately, only two of their pianos have survived to 2014.  Both are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania–one at the Moravian Museum and the other at Moravian College.  Jacob moved to nearby Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1834.  Whether he continued building pianos is uncertain.

For much of the time that Till the elder was building pianos with his son he (the elder) supplemented his income by playing the organ at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem.  He succeeded Johann Friedrich Peter (1746-1813) in that post in 1811.  Two of Till’s successors in that position were Theodore Francis Wolle (1832-1885) and John Frederick “J. Fred” Wolle (1863-1933), of whom I have written recently.

Johann Christian Till died on November 19, 1844.

Good music has an everlasting aspect to it.  As long as people can, for example, acquire and read musical scores then perform the music properly the composer’s legacy continues.  Unless the composition is a cappella an instrument is, by design, properly part of the performance.  That is where the builders of instruments fulfill their function.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 22:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Lord Jesus Christ, master craftsman of our salvation,

we thank you for those artisans who have glorified you with their skills

and for those who continue to do so.

May we, inspired by their positive examples,

glorify you with all our skills, no matter how mundane we think they are.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

Psalm 86:1-13

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Matthew 13:54-58

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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One response to “Feast of Johann Christian Till and Jacob Christian Till (November 17)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Jeremias Dencke, Simon Peter, and Johann Friedrich Peter (May 26) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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