Archive for the ‘David Moritz Michael’ Tag

Feast of David Moritz Michael (October 21)   2 comments

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1832

Above:  View of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1832

Image in the Public Domain

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DAVID MORITZ MICHAEL (OCTOBER 21, 1751-FEBRUARY 26, 1827)

German-American Moravian Musician and Composer

David Moritz Michael (1751-1827), a native of Kuhnhausen, in Germany, received his musical training in Europe.  He became a virtuoso on instruments including the violin, the clarinet, and the French horn.  He brought his musical talents to the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum), which he joined when he was thirty years old.  Our saint taught music at the Moravian school at Niesky prior to transferring to the Bethlehem-Nazareth area of Pennsylvania in 1795 to work with young men there.  He lived in Nazareth from 1795 to 1808 and at Bethlehem from 1808 to 1815.  He led the collegium musicum of Nazareth from 1795 to  1804.  Michael assumed leadership of the collegium musicum of Bethlehem in 1808, revitalizing the ensemble musically and financially.  In 1811, at Bethlehem, he conducted an early (if not the first) American performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Creation.

Our saint seems to have composed only during his two decades in the United States of America.  A major work was Psalm 103, which he debuted at Nazareth on November 8, 1805.  He scored the composition, which he intended as a concert piece, for SATB choir, two flutes, two clarinets, bassoon, clarini, string, and organ.  Karl Kroeger wrote in 1976 that Psalm 103 was

the first extended, cantata-like work written by an American Moravian composer, and quite possibly the earliest work for these performing forces written in America.

Kroeger wrote of our saint that Psalm 103 

shows Michael to have been a capable composer of considerable craftsmanship, and perhaps the only Moravian composer in America during his time who could have successfully handled a large-scale, lyrico-dramatic choral form.  On the basis of Psalm 103 alone one must rank Michael as a major figure in American Moravian music.

Michael also composed fourteen Parthien for woodwind ensembles, many solos for vocalists, many motets for church choirs, and two suites for Whitmonday (the Monday after Pentecost).  The structure of each of the Parthien was three to five movements, with forms similar to early classical symphonies.  His motets, all of whom musicologists might not have identified, included “Hearken! Stay Close to Jesus Christ,” “Hearken, For I Bring You Great Joy,” and “Hail, Newborn Infant.”  Whitmonday was an occasion for a music festival along the banks of the Lehigh River at Bethlehem.  Michael’s two suites for Whitmonday were Water Journey (1809) and Suites to Play by a Spring (probably 1810).  The ensemble performed the fifteen movements and two unnumbered sections of Water Journey on a piloted boat on the river.  Each movement was consistent with the condition of the river (from quiet to the whirlpool in the middle to quiet again) when the musicians performed it.  This work, according to many, was Michael’s masterpiece.  Suites to Play by a Spring had fourteen movements–an introduction and three sections.

Our saint returned to Germany in 1815.  He died at Neuweid on February 26, 1827.  His music has survived him, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring David Michael Moritz

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Feast of Jeremias Dencke, Simon Peter, and Johann Friedrich Peter (May 28)   4 comments

136305pv

Above:  Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, February 1969

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA,48-BETH,2–4

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JEREMIAS DENCKE (OCTOBER 2, 1725-MAY 28, 1795)

Silesian-American Moravian Composer and Organist

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SIMON PETER (APRIL 2, 1743-MAY 29, 1819)

German-American Composer, Educator, Musician, and Minister

brother of

JOHANN FRIEDRICH PETER (MAY 19, 1746-JULY 13, 1813)

German-American Composer, Educator, Musician, and Minister

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This is a post about three important early American Composers–all of them Moravians and two of them pastors.  Their stories overlap, hence their inclusion in one post.

Our story begins with Jeremias Dencke (1725-1795), born in Langenbielau, Silesia.  He, a recent convert to the Moravian Church in 1748, moved to Herrnhut, the Moravian headquarters in Saxony.  There he served as an organist before emigrating to America in 1761 on the same boat with the father of our other two saints, Simon Peter (1743-1819) and Johann Friedrich Simon (1746-1813).  Five years later, for the occasion of the Provincial Synod at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Dencke composed the first piece of concerted church music in America; it was a work for chorus, strings, and organ.  Other major works from his oeuvre included three sets of sacred songs for soprano, organ, and strings.  Johann Friedrich Peter’s collection preserved these sets of sacred songs.  Dencke, probably the first composer of instrumentally accompanied sacred vocal music anyone composed in America, died at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on May 28, 1795.  He was fifty-nine years old.

The birthplace of the Peter brothers–Simon (1743-1819) and Johann Friedrich (1746-1813)–was Heerendijk, Holland.  They, educated in Europe, followed their father to America in 1770.  Both brothers were composers, musicians, educators, and pastors.

Johann Friedrich Simon (1746-1813) was the more prominent composer in the family.  This was due to where he worked, for Simon Peter (1743-1819) usually labored in churches and communities without fine instrumental ensembles and/or choirs.  When a church had a choir the vocal ensemble was usually small.  Thus his musical compositions were not as numerous as those of his brother, but he made up for the lack of quantity with a high standard of quality.  Among Simon’s works was an anthem, “Look, Ye, How My Servants Shall Be Feasting,” for the fiftieth anniversary of the Moravian arrival in North Carolina.

Both brothers’ American odyssey began in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where they arrived in 1770 to teach at Nazareth Hall, the boys’ school there.  Johann Friedrich left three years later, but Simon remained in Pennsylvania until 1784, when he moved to North Carolina.  He worked as a pastor, a music teacher, and a church administrator.  Among Simon’s pupils was Johann Christian Till (1762-1844), whom he mentored at Nazareth.  Simon proved crucial to arranging for Till, a nail maker and woodworker, to take music lessons during part of his (Till’s) lunch hours.  Till went on to become a schoolmaster, composer, piano builder, and musician.  In 1811 Till succeeded Johann Friedrich Peter as organist at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Simon died at Salem, North Carolina, on May 29, 1819.

Johann Friedrich Peter (1746-1813) went from being a pupil to a master teacher and a faithful servant of God in U.S. Moravian communities.  He also became the leading Moravian composer in the United States, for he had talent and opportunities to pursue it.  Johann Friedrich’s Moravian upbringing taught him that the proper uses of talents were to glorify God (Christ, specifically) and to edify one’s community, not to enrich oneself.  During his time on Earth Johann Friedrich struggled spiritually with his ego and his musical gifts.  He also thanked Christ for these gifts and the successful navigation of that spiritual struggle.

Johann Friedrich was a well-educated and capable man.  He matriculated at the boarding school at Niesky, Germany, in 1755.  There he studied under Johann Daniel Grimm (1719-1760).  From 1765 to 1769 Johann Friedrich attended the seminary at Barby, Germany.  There he started copying music, which he carried to America.  That collection included works from European composers, may of whom were alive at the time.

Bethlehem-Nazareth, PA

Above:  The Bethlehem-Nazareth Area in Pennyslvania, 1945

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

Johann Friedrich lived in America from 1770 to his death forty-three years later.  He spent most of that time in Pennsylvania, usually in Bethlehem.  From 1770 to 1773 he taught at Nazareth Hall, the boy’s school, at Nazareth.  Johann Friedrich spent 1773-1779 in Bethlehem.  There he led the community instrumental ensemble, the collegium musicum, and made it part of regular worship services.  A brief stint (1779-1780) at Lititz followed.  There he kept the church records.

Lititz-Mountjoy, PA

Above:  The Lititz-Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, Area

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

From 1780 to 1790 Johann Friedrich served in various capacities at Salem, North Carolina, and in the vicinity.  He compiled orders of worship, played the organ, preached, baptized, administered communion, supervised and taught at the boy’s school, kept the congregational diary, served the church as secretary, served as the community’s music director, led the collegium musicum, and, for a time, served as the interim pastor.  After he left Salem, others continued his musical legacy in the community.  Johann Friedrich also conducted services in outlying communities, where he administered the sacraments and, as necessary, played the organ and sang.

Below:  Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1935

Photographer = Frances Benjamin Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-csas-02658

02658v

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Graceham, MD

Above:  Graceham, Maryland, 1945

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

Johann Friedrich moved a few times before returning to Bethlehem for more service (1793-1802.  He was the interim pastor at Graceham, Maryland, from 1790 to 1791, before returning to Bethlehem briefly (1791).

Hope, NJ

Above:  Hope, New Jersey, 1945

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

Then he left to supervise the school at Hope, New Jersey, from 1791 to 1793.  During his third tenure (1793-1802) at Bethlehem Johann Friedrich served as the clerk, secretary, and organist at Central Moravian Church.  He left again in 1802 to become the pastor at Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, but returned to Bethlehem two years later.  There he remained for the rest of his life.  Johann Friedrich retired as organist in 1811.  Johann Christian Till (1762-1844), his brother Simon’s former student, became the new organist.  Our saint died suddenly on July 13, 1813, shortly after playing the organ for a children’s service at Bethlehem.

The great man–a composer and a music teacher–left human and musical legacies.  His pupils served in their communities for decades and influenced countless numbers of people directly and indirectly.  The prolific composer left his works, such as six string quartets (from 1789), the earliest chamber music anyone composed in the United States.  Johann Friedrich also composed church anthems, such as “It is a Precious Thing,” originally a duet for two sopranos.  (The 1954 edition is, however, a duet between a baritone and a soprano, followed by a four-part a cappella chorale.)  Other anthems included “Unto Us a Child is Born” and “Hearken, Stay Close to Him.”

Johann Friedrich understood that his talents came from God.  Thus our saint employed them to glorify God and to edify his communities.  He was piously humble about his many services to God and communities, leaving many unmentioned.  I, however, mention three here:

  1. He organized a service of mourning for the passing of President George Washington.  The service occurred at Bethlehem on February 22, 1800.
  2. Johann Friedrich organized the service of dedication of the new (and current) structure for Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, in 1806.
  3. He played the violin in an early American performance of Haydn’s Creation at Bethlehem in 1811.  David Moritz Michael (1751-1827), a composer of church anthems, conducted.

These three “new” saints–Jeremias Dencke, Simon Peter, and Johann Friedrich Peter–seem like kindred spirits not only to each other but to me.  I thank my late father for introducing me to classical music, especially the ecclesiastical side of it.  Thus my well-honed musical tastes cause me to like these three saints for cultural reasons, among others.  May their musical legacies thrive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants

Jeremias Dencke, Simon Peter, and Johann Friedrich Peter,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724

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Feast of John Kenneth Pfohl, Bessie Whittington Pfohl, and James Christian Pfohl (November 23)   5 comments

Pfohls

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN KENNETH “J. KENNETH” PFOHL, SR. (AUGUST 13, 1874-NOVEMBER 27, 1967)

U.S. Moravian Bishop

husband of

HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL (JULY 28, 1881-NOVEMBER 23, 1971)

U.S. Moravian Musician

mother of

JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR. (SEPTEMBER 17, 1912-MARCH 28, 1997)

U.S. Moravian Musician

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Two Sundays ago my church choir, in which I sing bass, performed “Hearken! Stay Close to Jesus Christ,” with music by David Moritz Michael (1751-1827).  The sheet music, bearing a 1956 copyright date, indicated that the composition came from the Moravian Church archives at Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  My fellow choristers and I sang a motet probably available to contemporary audiences because of the efforts of Bessie Whittington Pfohl and/or James Christian Pfohl, Jr.  These two saints brought Bishop John Kenneth Pfohl, Sr, to my attention.  Once again hagiography has become a family affair.

John Kenneth “J. Kenneth” Pfohl, Sr. (1874-1967) was a prominent bishop in the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  He was, in fact, heir to generations of faithful (often ordained) Christian witness within the Moravian Church, going all the way back to the Ancient Unity, founded in 1457.  Great-grandfathers and a grandfather were ministers, and his father, Christian Thomas Pfohl, served as a congregational elder at Salem (now Winston-Salem), North Carolina, for twenty-three years.  J. Kenneth, a graduate of Moravian College (1898) and Moravian Theological Seminary (1900), became the first Principal of the Clemmons School, Clemmons, North Carolina, which opened its doors in October 1900.  This proved to be a crucial assignment in his life.

Harriet Elizabeth “Bessie” Whittington (1881-1971), a graduate of Salem College, joined the faculty of Clemmons School; she taught music in the lower grades.  She and the Principal fell in love.  They married on August 21, 1901, becoming partners in life and ministry for the next sixty-six years, three months, and six days.  They also raised six children:

  1. Margaret Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell;
  2. Mary Dorothea Pfohl Lassiter;
  3. Ruth Whittington Pfohl Grams;
  4. John Kenneth Pfohl, Jr.;
  5. James Christian Pfohl, Sr., and
  6. Donald Lawrence Pfohl.

All of the Pfohl children received music education at home and became musicians.  Music became either a vocation or an avocation for each of them.

Home Moravian Church

Above:  Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1935

Photographer = Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-csas-02662

J. Kenneth and Bessie were partners in church work.  He, pastor of Christ Moravian Church (1903-1908) then Home Moravian Church (1908-1934), both in Salem, North Carolina, had Bessie by his side.  She served as the organist and choir director of Home Church for eighteen years.  She resigned that post to work on the provincial level after her husband became the Bishop of the Southern Province.  J. Kenneth’s work beyond the parish level included membership on the Southern Provincial Elders’ Conference (starting in 1920), the Presidency of that body (1929-1953), the leadership of the provincial Foreign Missionary Society (1923-1935), and the Episcopate (1931-1959).  During World War II he functioned as the de facto leader of the worldwide Moravian Church.  And, on the local level, he became the senior pastor of the Salem Congregation, a cooperative agency of the Moravian congregations in Winston-Salem, in 1931.

Bessie, meanwhile, was rediscovering early American Moravian Church music and making it available to new audiences.   James Christian Pfohl, Sr. (1912-1997), one of her sons, edited many of these masterpieces.  The Moravian Church in America had felt much pressure to change its music, to make it more “American,” in the 1800s.  In the process of conforming the Church buried and forgot many of its treasures of sacred music.  Pfohls restored these lost works, fortunately.

Bishop Pfohl, a musician, pastor, and historian with a down-to-earth manner, died at Winston-Salem in 1967.  He was ninety-three years old.  Bessie joined him in the next life four years later.  She spent her final years at the Medicenter, Winston-Salem, where she played the piano for other patients.

James Christian Pfohl, Sr. (1912-1997), was an excellent musician.  He had become so accomplished that, at the conclusion of his undergraduate studies, he started the Department of Music at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, in 1933.  He founded the Davidson Music School for Boys (later the Transylvania Music Camp) in 1936; he led it for twenty-nine years.  James Christian also served as the President of the North Carolina Bandmasters Association from 1938 to 1939, founded the Brevard Music Center, conducted the Charlotte (North Carolina) Symphony Orchestra, and served as the Music Director (1952-1962) of the Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony Orchestra.  He inspired the founding of the North Carolina School of the Arts (the University of North Carolina School of the Arts since 2008) in 1963.  If that were not enough, he founded a summer music camp at Reston, Virginia, in 1967 and another one at York, Pennsylvania, ten years later.

During my research I read the obituary of a son, James Christian Pfohl, Jr. (April 16, 1940-June 17, 2014).  He followed in the footsteps of many other Pfohls, for he maintained music as an avocation while working in a non-musical profession.

My reading about the Pfohl family of North Carolina has revealed it to be a nursery for artistic expression.  I have not worked out the full family tree, but I have read of singers, instrumentalists, musicologists, arrangers, choir directors, an orchestral conductor, and a dancer.  All this is wonderful, for beauty just might save the world.  Certainly beauty improves it.  As I heard years ago, people danced their religion before they thought it.  Also, music can convey meaning better than words can sometimes.  Thus we who seek God can benefit greatly from the arts if only we will permit ourselves to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring the Pfohls and all those

who with words and music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lies and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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